For the better part of the season, the Lugoff-Elgin softball team’s storyline read like a fairy tale with walk-off base hits and home runs filling its pages. In Monday’s 5A District 4 elimination game, a half-inning turned a potential best seller into a cheap dime store novel.
Visiting Dorman used a seven-run top of the sixth to erase a 4-3 deficit and held on for a 10-6 win over the Lady Demons to advance into Wednesday’s district championship round at Hillcrest.
The end did not come sweetly for L-E which committed four errors in the nightmarish sixth frame and had six on the evening. The hostesses further complicated things by having a runner thrown out after rounding the bag too boldly following a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh in which the hostesses loaded the bases with one out only to come away empty in their season finale.
Returning from a long talk with her team before spending time congratulating Lady Cavalier head coach Kim Hames on the victory, L-E head coach Savannah Starling said things simply came apart in the top of the sixth.
“I feel like that’s been typical of our fashion the last couple games,” said the first-year head coach after her team went 1-2 in the postseason with both losses coming at the hands of Dorman. “We make one mistake and then, they seem to pile on top of each other instead of our nipping it in the bud and move on.”
Dorman, which opened the district tourney with a 7-0 win over L-E last Thursday at Shelby Miles Field, found itself looking up at a 4-3 deficit after the Lady Demons broke a 3-3 deadlock with a run in the fifth. Bailey Douglas, who was moved into the leadoff spot one game earlier after having been issued three intentional walks against the Lady Cavs in their first meeting, opened the fifth with a double down the left field line. After advancing to third on Emily Vinson’s bunt single, Douglas scored the go-ahead run on Kaley Goerlich’s sacrifice fly to left as momentum returned to the L-E dugout.
The excitement would be short-lived as Emma Bright led off the sixth with a single. When L-E could not make a play on Kayla Dempsey’s sacrifice bunt, it put runners on first and second with no outs. After Goerlich hopped out of her crouch behind the plate to make a diving grab of a bunt attempt for the first out, the wheels started to come off as another error on Kiera Godfrey’s ground ball allowed Bright to come in with the tying run.
A Caroline Darwin double made it 5-4 before DHS pitcher Kasey Wolfe helped her own cause with a two-run double. An RBI single from Jack Busch and Bright’s double --- her second hit of the inning --- ended Douglas’ night inside the pitching circle as Emma Spradley came on to put out the fire but not before the visitors sent a dozen batters to the plate, scoring seven runs on six hits while using four errors to help along the way.
Dorman was still not out of the woods, yet, however.
In the bottom of the sixth, Spradley led off with a single to left and checked up at third base on the two-base error. Aubrey Rabon followed with an RBI single. After retiring the next two batters, Hames issued Douglas an intentional walk. Vinson then lined a run-scoring single to center to make it 10-6 before Wolfe got the final out in a hard-hit grounder to second.
Playing with a four-run lead, DHS had to fend off one last threat in the seventh. After the base running snafu opened the inning, L-E received consecutive singles from Hailey Mock, Spradley and Rabon only for the visitors to get out of the potential mess with a game-ending double play.
“Having the bases loaded with one out and a senior at the plate. You couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” Starling said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way.”
Wolfe, who blanked L-E on four hits just four nights earlier, was staked to a 1-0 lead after an inning and a half. The Lady Demons knotted things with a run in the second as Mock led off with a single, took third on the two-base error on the play, and scored on Gracie Holland’s one-out sacrifice fly.
After DHS scored a pair in the third, L-E responded in kind to, again, even things. Sydney Branham singled to center to lead things off before Douglas reached on an error. A Vinson bunt single loaded the bases with no outs. With one gone, Goerlich lined a two-run single to center to make it 3-3. Vinson tried to score from first on the play but was thrown out on the relay throw to the plate from second baseman Lath Freeman.
The fourth run in the fifth --- which put L-E on top, 4-3 ---, came on two hits. The Lady Demon bats were more productive against Wolfe on Monday as the hostesses knocked the DHS righty around for 15 hits with Vinson having four of those. Goerlich, Mock, Spradley and Rabon had two hits each in the loss.
When asked what her team learned from having faced Wolfe once before, Starling turned the question around.
“I don’t think we really learned as much about her as we learned about ourselves,” she said. “I preached for innings the last game we played against her to start your hands at the top of the zone and get through the middle of the zone. I think we finally made that adjustment and we made it a lot earlier this game.”
Douglas allowed 12 hits in 5.2 innings of work while Spradley did not give up a hit in closing out the game. Just as they did in their first meeting with L-E, the Lady Cavaliers came out swinging, advanced runners with bunts and pounded the ball in the dirt, forcing the defense to make plays.
“Their approach has been the same; swing the bat, look for singles and then, drop the bunt down,” Starling said. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t field the bunt today. I think they dropped (a bunt) down four times and we didn’t throw them out once.”
Gathering her team in a circle in centerfield after the loss, Starling talked about some of the things she mentioned after a season in which the Lady Demons won the Region 4-5A title with an 8-0 record and earned the top seed in the district tourney.
“It’s always hard, but it’s even harder when you know we didn’t play to our potential and we, kind of, gave it away,” she said. “I just told them that it was sad, but it doesn’t hurt as bad as it would have if we had gotten straight-up beat. We beat ourselves. We gave up 10 runs and not one of them was earned. That’s all us.
“We hit well enough to win, but we didn’t play defense. That’s where we fell short.”