Two things were readily evident following Lugoff-Elgin 10-0 win over visiting rival Camden in a Monday night softball game. First, the Lady Demons do not take kindly to losing. Second, they can rake with the bat.
And, by the way, L-E’s pitching is none-too-shabby either.
In a game stopped by the 10-run rule with no outs in the top of the sixth, James Marlow’s charges received 17 hits, including a two-run blast from junior catcher Sophia Holland, in a four-run third inning. Pitching-wise, Baleigh Lunsford and Bailey Douglas combined to handcuff the Lady Bulldogs on two hits while combining to fan seven CHS batters.
The win was a bit of redemption for the Lady Demons (5-1) whose only loss in last weekend’s Lady Wildcat Invitational in Lexington came at the hands of Ashley Ridge. While saying that setback did not sit well with his girls, Marlow said it showed L-E what areas still needed tweaking.
From all indications, one area which seems to be good to go is the L-E offense which had few cheap hits on Monday. In spite of their big numbers, Marlow said, his team is capable to doing even more damage at the plate.
“Right now,” he said. “I think we’re somewhat underachieving. Their possibilities are through the roof. We’ve commented several times, as a staff, that this is possibly the most complete lineup that we’ve had here in terms of the ability to hit, up and down the order.
“This group hit the weight room from the time they got here; seventh grade, eighth grade. We have a team full of freshmen and juniors and we are definitely seeing the results of the weight room and the time these girls have put in the batting cage with instructors. They really are hitting the ball solid.”
Camden opened its season by dismantling Region 4-AAA rival A.C. Flora, 17-2, last Thursday. On Monday, leadoff batter Whitley Kahler started the game with a single, stole second and was bunted to third by Hannah Baker. That was the extent of the guests’ threat for the evening. The next and last time the Lady Bulldogs had a base runner came when Amanda Lane singled to open the third only to be left on first base.
CHS head coach Lynn Looney said she knew what her team was in for against the Lady Demons. She said they will use this game as a measuring stick as to how much work her team still has to do. She added that, in all probability, CHS will not face a better hitting team this season than L-E.
“This is a good test for us, if they don’t get too down on themselves,” Looney said. “We were making good contact; we’ve been working hard on that and it makes a difference. And, we only made one error tonight. Defensively, we’re playing well and I’m pleased with that.”
Kennedi Stokes was able to retire the Lady Demons in order in the top of the first with none of the three balls getting out of the reach of her infielders. Things changed in the home half of the second which opened with back-to-back singles from Lunsford and Sophia Holland. Kaley Goerlich’s one-out single to left drove home courtesy runner Caitlyn Curry with the game’s first run while Erica Rawl’s two-out infield single brought Holland in with the second run.
Marlow said his hitters had to relax against Stokes, who plays summer ball with several of his players.
“We saw them in pre-season and we hit her hard then,” Marlow said of facing Stokes again over the span of a few weeks. “I warned the girls that she was going to come out with a different approach tonight. Kennedi is a good ballplayer and a good pitcher.
“Our girls were overaggressive (in the first inning.) We went after that rise ball and swung early in the count. We got on them about that and our girls are really good about making adjustments.”
L-E started to salt this game away by batting around in a four-run third frame to grab a 6-0 advantage.
The one-out rally started with a Delaney Guerrero single to left. With two gone and Guerrero still on first base, Holland hit a low liner down the left field which found its way just inside the foul pole and over the 202-foot sign to make it 4-0.
The rally kept going with consecutive singles from Kelly Graham, Goerlich and Taylor Sinay loading the bags for Rawl whose liner to left knocked in her second and third runs of the night while giving Lunsford a six-run cushion.
The hostesses added three more runs in the fourth in an inning which could have been larger had it not been for CHS centerfielder Kristen Carter going to the base of the fence to rob Goerlich of what looked to be a grand slam when the ball left her bat.
For the second time in as many innings, Guerrero cracked a one-out single for the second of her three hits on the night. Lunsford singled before a walk to Holland loaded the bases for Graham whose grounder to Bri Dow at shortstop resulted in a throw home which was in time only for the home plate umpire to rule that the CHS catcher was not standing on the plate when she caught Dow’s throw.
Goerlich, who had a three-hit night, was then robbed of a grand slam which still plated Curry from third. A Sinay single scored Holland as the lead ballooned to 9-0.
Lunsford was replaced on the mound by Douglas, who faced the minimum six batters in working the fifth and sixth frames. Lunsford’s night ended with her allowing a pair of singles with five strikeouts and no walks as she takes over the mantle from the graduated Erin Blizzard as L-E’s number one pitcher.
“Baleigh is in the same mold as Blizzard,” Marlow said. “You won’t find a harder worker than Baleigh. She’s just a great girl. She makes great grades, has great character and comes from a great family. She’s been biding her time and has played some first base, some third base and got about five or six starts last year just to get her feet wet.”
Looney said her offense needed to be more relaxed against Lunsford.
“Sometimes, we’re not as patient as we need to be but Baleigh threw a good game. I thought she did a good job of mixing up her pitches at the right times,” she said. “We hit the ball hard but just right at people tonight.”
The Lady Demons put this one in the books in the sixth which ended with Sinay’s fielders’ choice with no outs driving in Holland, who walked to open things, from third base on a bang-bang play at the plate.
In addition to the three-hit nights from the senior Guerrero and Goerlich, a freshman third baseman, L-E received two hits each from Lunsford, Holland, Sinay and Rawl. While the offensive explosion was nice, Marlow said he knows that not every game will be like this one.
“We told them after the game that they are going to want some of those at-bats back,” he said with a smile. “We have to settle them down and tone down some of that aggressiveness we have at the plate but that’s also what makes them good hitters in general. It’s a double-edged sword, to a degree.”
Looney, whose team looked to stay on roll in 4-AAA play with upcoming region games with Lower Richland and Dreher, respectively, on Tuesday and tonight, said her team ran into a buzzsaw in the West Wateree on Monday.
“Kennedi (Stokes) wasn’t pitching bad at all for us. They’re just a good hitting ballclub,” she said. “They’re a very strong hitting team and you have to take chances when you can against them. It just didn’t pan out the way we wanted tonight.”