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Sitting Pretty

Lady Demons can clinch Lower State title today

Posted: May 11, 2017 11:45 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

L-E THIRD BASEMAN Kaley Goerlich made this throw to gun down Hartsville’s Taylor Lawhon from her knees in the fifth inning of the Lady Demons’ 6-0 win in Monday’s 4A Lower State tournament winners’ bracket game.

HARTSVILLE -- Thrust into the role of being Lugoff-Elgin’s primary starting pitcher following a season-ending injury to All-State senior Baleigh Lunsford last month, Bailey Douglas brings a non-pitcher’s mentality into the circle each time she toes the rubber.

Whereas some throwers can tell you what different batters have done in their previous at-bats and know how many hits they have surrendered, Douglas is a “rock and fire and let the chips fall where they may ”type of thrower.

So, when the Lady Demon sophomore right-hander was asked whether or not she knew she had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning of Monday’s 4A Lower State tournament winner’s bracket game at Hartsville, Douglas simply smiled, shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. 

“No, I didn’t pay any attention to it, actually,” she said. “I know they’re a good hitting team so I was just going to go on with my drop ball, keep it low and keep it on the ground. I just did my best and threw my pitches.” 

Douglas’ bid for a no-hitter ended with a McKinsey Bizzell single with two gone in the fifth. That was one of two hits for the Red Foxes who were penned up by Douglas and the visiting Lady Demons, 6-0.

By virtue of the shutout win, L-E advanced into today’s Lower State championship match and will host Hartsville, a 7-5 winner over Berkeley, at 5 p.m. at L-E. The visitors will have to beat the Lady Demons twice with the winner hosting Monday’s first game of the best-of-three 4A state championship series.

The victory was the second in three meetings for James Marlow’s charges over their Region 6-4A rivals. In their first two games played in early March, Lunsford toed the rubber for the Lady Demons. Monday was the first time the Lady Red Foxes had seen Douglas and her drop ball. The hostesses were clearly flummoxed as they struck out five times and had 12 ground ball outs in the seven-inning affair.

Marlow said he could sense and, at one time, heard, a HHS batter’s frustration in not being able to do anything with Douglas’ feature pitch.

“What we have is a young lady with a very dynamic pitch which is hard to get elevated and they’re banging it into the ground. They’re frustrated in that they can’t do anything with that pitch,” Marlow said of Douglas’ drop ball.

“We’re fortunate enough to have a really good catcher (Sophie Holland) who can block those pitches and we’re also playing some of our best defense. It’s a team thing but we’re thankful that Douglas has this pitch that is frustrating girls, right now.”

The Lady Demons provided Douglas all the run support she would need in a wild third inning sequence in which they scored their first two runs off HHS starter Taylor Watford.

Caitlyn Curry, who delivered three hits from the nine hole in the batting order, opened the inning with a single to left. Savannah Grigsby, who also enjoyed a three-hit night, followed by dropping down a bunt single along the third base line. The pair were moved into scoring position on Douglas’ sacrifice bunt for the first out.

Then, the fun started.

Kelly Graham sent a ground ball to Sydney McInnis at third base. With Curry going on contact, McInnis sent a wide throw to the plate as Curry scored. A sprinting Grigsby slammed into McInnis, knocking the HHS third baseman off her feet as the throw from home to second was in time to get Graham, who was trying to take the extra base.

Confusion reigned as Marlow argued for an interference call against McInnis, which was late in coming before a meeting between the three umpires ruled that Grigsby would be awarded home while the call at second to get Graham stood.

For a time, Marlow was left to choose which of the three umpires he should plead his case to.

“I don’t even know what to tell you,” Marlow said when asked about the wild scene in the top of the third. “It got a little confusing there for a minute. I was looking for the (third base) umpire to have his fist out for the interference call at third … my eyes were in so many places.”

With Douglas mowing down the HHS batters, the two-run cushion seemed larger. Just in case, however, the guests tacked on another pair in the fourth which opened with a leadoff double to left center from Holland who was bunted over to third by Kellee Branham. Courtesy runner Emily Vinson was then tagged out in a rundown between third and home after Gracie Holland’s bunt was fielded by McInnis, who held onto the ball and charged at Vinson rather than making the throw to first.Gracie Holland landed on second during the rundown. An Erica Rawl two-out bunt had Holland landing safely on an unguarded third base bag while Rawl pulled into second base. Curry then delivered her second hit of the game, this a two-run single to left to extend the margin to 4-0.Saying he was not fully comfortable with a two-run lead, Marlow said his offense was on its way to getting to their magic number of runs after the fourth inning mini-rally.“We knew if we struck first here at their home that we could possibly damage their psyche a little bit,” he said. “We’ve set a goal the past three games where we thought six was our number; two was not enough. I think I said ‘It’s not enough (runs)’ about a hundred times today”The Lady Demons reached Marlow’s goal of scoring six runs by pushing across a pair in the top of the seventh, the second inning of work for HHS reliever Liz Stroud.Graham kicked things off in a loud way with her 10th home run --- in what is believed to be a single-season program record --- to left field. Graham, who was hitless in her first three plate appearances against Watford, said she was looking for a specific pitch from Stroud.“It was an inside screwball and I was just waiting on it,” said the senior first baseman. “I was waiting for an inside pitch that I could send over.“(Watford) had a better approach for me. She didn’t necessarily pitch me low or, pitch me high. (Stroud) didn’t have a good approach for me, at all. She pitched me inside and I can hit inside pitches really far.”Kaley Goerlich followed Graham’s blast with a scorching double down the left field line. Sophie Holland followed with a single and when the throw from the plate to second on Holland’s stolen base try ended up in center field, Goerlich jogged home with the sixth run.The Lady Demons collected 10 hits in the win led by three each from Curry and Grigsby, a pair of sophomores. Sophie Holland added a pair of hits while Graham’s blast was her second and the team’s sixth in two games in the Lower State championship tournament.Having to win one more game to advance to the state championship series and sitting in the catbird’s seat this afternoon, both Douglas and Marlow are taking nothing for granted. They want to close out whoever comes to the West Wateree in one game and not have the pressure of a second and deciding game on their collective shoulders. With Hartsvillebeing tonight’s opponent, Marlow said Douglas will be a known commodity to the Lady Red Fox batters.“Things are going to probably get a little trickier, now,” he said. “We’ve seen both their pitchers and we’ve been able to get on them both so, from a hitting standpoint, I feel semi-comfortable. They’ll also be getting fourth, fifth and sixth at-bats against Bailey.”Douglas said being the hunted rather than the hunter tonight has its perks.“We’re a lot more relaxed, actually,” she said. “There’s no stress going into it; just get out there and do my thing.”
Upper State tourney: Union County hosts North Augusta for the 4A Upper State title with the visitors having to defeat the Yellow Jackets twice to advance to the 4A championship series.

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