Hartsville softball makes a statement
By Don Gearhart
A very important matchup of Region top runners was at stake when the visiting Lady Red Foxes from Hartsville visited the Lady Knights from West Florence. The winner of this contest would make a statement to the rest of the conference that they were the team to beat.
Hartsville was able to get a runner to third in the top of the first inning but unable to score. West Florence was retired in order in the bottom of the inning.
In the second, the Lady Red Foxes threatened when Kindon Dawson was safe at first on a passed ball when strike three got by the catcher. She advanced to second base on a wild pitch and an out later, Abbey Byrd singled up the middle to move Dawson to third. Byrd stole second base, but the next two batters were retired to end the threat. The Lady Knights did not fare any better in their half of the second inning.
In the top of the third inning, Olivia Martin was safe after one out when her grounder to second was misplayed. She promptly stole second base, then scored when Alyssa Poston went the other way with an RBI double. A groundout to short froze Poston at second but she stole third ahead of a base on balls to Dawson.
Both runners were stranded but Hartsville was on the board with a 1-0 margin. The bottom of the third inning was a mirror image of the first two for West Florence. Poston, a game removed from her fourth career no-hitter looked to be striving for “one for the thumb.” The diminutive hurler struck out seven of the first nine batters she faced. To quote Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: “Though she be but little she is fierce.”
In the top of the fourth, Jaysha McCullough got aboard after two outs when she was hit by a pitch. Myah Harvey followed with a double to left. McCullough scored when the throw from left field sailed into the Hartsville dugout and Harvey advanced to third. Martin walked and Poston was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Any further damage ended on a foul ball flyout to third. In the Lady Knights’ half of the fourth, Poston struck out the leadoff batter but surrendered a hard hit single to left by Summer Holland. Facing the heart of a very good hitting West Florence lineup, Poston showed her tenacity by striking out the number three batter and cleanup batter to end any threat.
In Hartsville’s half of the fifth inning, Dawson led off with a walk. Avarie Easters was hit by a pitch, and Abbey Byrd’s sacrifice bunt caused a throwing error to allow Dawson to score and Easters to move to third while Byrd settled into second base. Sarah Watkins singled home Easters and Harvey delivered a soft single to score Byrd.
Martin drove in Watkins with a fielder’s choice ground out. Poston was intentionally walked for the second time. This time, however, the strategy failed as Caydon Thompson drew an RBI walk to score Watkins. Harvey finished the 5-run rally when she scooted home on a wild pitch.
By putting 10 batters to the plate, Hartsville had a 7-0 lead. West Florence answered in the bottom half of the fifth when Annie Ruth Eliason led off with a base hit and Taryn Weatherford moved her to third on a ringing double to the left centerfield fence. Kaylee Windham’s RBI grounder to second produced the Lady Knights’ first run of the game.
The sixth inning proved to be the difference maker as Byrd singled with one out and Watkins followed suit with a base hit of her own.
McCullough walked to load the bases and Harvey earned an RBI the hard and painful way when she was hit by a pitch. Martin singled in two runs and an out later, Thompson drove in two more with a base hit. The Hartsville lead was now 12-1 and limiting West Florence to one run or less in the bottom of the sixth would signify a shortened game by virtue of the 10-Run rule. After the leadoff batter was hit by a pitch, Carter Shumate made a fantastic catch of a foul flyball against the fence behind first base. Poston struck out the next batter and the game was secured when Byrd tracked down a long fly ball to left field.
Hartsville now has an 8-0 record in the Region while West Florence fell to 5-2.
Poston gave up a single run on three hits with 12 strikeouts and one free pass. Eliason took the loss giving up all 12 runs on 9 hits. Although she struck out 9 batters, she was hurt by 8 walks, 3 hit-by-pitch, and 5 fielding errors on the night.
Hartsville was led by Harvey, Byrd, and Watkins with two hits each. Harvey and Poston had the only two extra base hits. Harvey, Martin, and Thompson each drove in three runs.