Softball advances to Sweet 16 with walk-off

  • Lauren English connects for one of her two 2-run doubles versus the Lady Wildcats in game one of a best-of-three series against Westminster.
    Lauren English connects for one of her two 2-run doubles versus the Lady Wildcats in game one of a best-of-three series against Westminster.
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The LCHS varsity softball team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the GHSA in come-from-behind fashion when the Lady Indians downed the Westminster Lady Wildcats in a best-of-three series in the first round of the GHSA State Softball Playoffs last week.
The Lady Indians began the best-of-three series versus Westminster when the two teams stepped inside the lines at the LCHS softball field for a doubleheader on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Game one started with the Lady Wildcats taking an early 1-0 advantage in the top of the first inning when they took advantage of an early defensive miscue by Lumpkin. Westminster’s leadoff batter smashed a hard hit ball at LCHS shortstop Evee Dornhecker on the third pitch of the game. Dornhecker was unable to wrangle in the ball and get a good throw to first base on the play, allowing the Lady Wildcats to reach on an error. Westminster followed up the defensive miscue by the Lady Indians with a sacrifice bunt that gave the Lady Wildcats a runner in scoring position with one out. The next batter ripped a RBI single to right field to give Westminster a 1-0 lead. LCHS starting pitcher Natalie Robinson was able to get out of the inning without any further damage when she induced a fly out to center and recorded her first strikeout of the contest.
It took the Lady Indians’ lineup a little while to get heated up, but in the bottom of the third a two-run double by third baseman Lauren English allowed Lumpkin to take its first lead of the ballgame at 2-1.
The Lady Indians added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth when they scored six runs off six hits. After a fly out from Emmie Graham, Anna Kate Wilson laid down a bunt single to give Lumpkin a runner on with one out. Brighton Harder followed with a patient at-bat to draw a walk, giving the Lady Indians runners at first and second. Dornhecker benefitted from a defensive error by the Westminster third baseman to load the bases. English, who had already come up with a big hit the previous inning, stayed hot at the plate and belted her second two-run double of the game to put Lumpkin up 4-1. Robinson helped out her own cause with a RBI sacrifice fly to right field, extending the lead to 5-1. Natalie Shubert kept the inning going with a RBI single to right field that scored English from second, upping the Lady Indians’ lead to 6-1. Haley Voyles followed with a single to center to give Lumpkin runners at first and second for Hannah Pulley. Pulley came through in the clutch and delivered a RBI single to center to score Shubert. Pulley’s sister Alyssa Pulley then knocked a RBI single down the left field line to give Lumpkin an 8-1 advantage. Westminster was able to get out of the inning without allowing another run, but the damage was done.
After allowing a run in the first inning, Robinson pitched a gem of a game for the Lady Indians and didn’t allow Westminster an opportunity to score again for the remainder of the contest. The senior allowed one run off four hits in her five innings of work while striking out four.
The Lady Indians ended up winning the game in the bottom of the fifth when Shubert connected for a walk-off RBI sacrifice fly to give Lumpkin a 9-1 victory in a run-rule shortened game.
The win gave the Lady Indians a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three series.
Game two began as a pitcher’s duel between Westminster’s starter and LCHS pitcher Lauren English. Neither pitcher allowed a run through the first three innings of the contest.
The Lady Wildcats were finally able to get to English in the bottom of the fourth when they were able to score two runs off a RBI ground out to short and a wild pitch, giving Westminster a 2-0 lead.
The two Westminster runs would prove to be the only runs scored in the contest, allowing the Lady Wildcats to even up the series at 1-1 with a 2-0 win.
Despite being saddled with the loss, English put in a great pitching performance for the Lady Indians. English allowed two runs on six hits in her seven innings pitched.
With the series tied, the two teams clashed again the following day, Oct. 10, to play the deciding game of the series.
The Lady Indians struck first in game three to take an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and added another two runs in the bottom of the fourth to up their advantage to 4-0.
It looked like the Lady Indians were in a good position to win the game, but Westminster came roaring back in the top of the fifth when the Lady Wildcats exploded for three runs to close the gap to 4-3. Westminster kept rolling in the top of the sixth and took its first lead of the game at 5-4 after scoring twice in the inning.
Down by a run and down to their final three outs of the contest, the Lady Indians put together a tremendous rally to pull out a thrilling comeback victory in the bottom of the seventh.
Shubert led off the inning with a single. In desperate need of a run in order to tie the game, LCHS head coach Joseph Jones put Haley Sparks in to pinch run for his catcher. With Sparks standing at first base, Hannah Pulley put down a nice sacrifice bunt to give Lumpkin a runner in scoring position with one out. Alyssa Pulley followed by getting hit by a pitch to give the Lady Indians runners on first and second with one out. Brooke Temples came off the bench to pinch hit and delivered a huge RBI double to even the score at 5-5. Temples’ hit flew over the right fielder’s head and allowed Sparks to score from second. With the game on the line, Jones once again went to his bench and put Kelsey Marshall on third as a pinch runner for Alyssa Pulley. With Marshall at third and Temples on second, Wilson, who had gone 2-for-3 in the game, was intentionally walked to load the bases. That is when Harder stepped up to the plate and delivered a hard hit ball to second base that Westminster’s infielder proceeded to throw away in an attempt to get the force out at home. The error allowed the Lady Indians to earn a 6-5 comeback victory and gave Lumpkin a 2-1 series win.
“It was a great playoff series,” said Jones. “We really got a gut check when we fell behind in the fifth.  We had made some good adjustments and hit some balls hard all night at the plate. The grit our players showed in the seventh offensively and defensively was tremendous.”
English, who came in in relief of Robinson in the fifth inning, earned the win for Lumpkin. Robinson pitched the first four inning, allowing two earned runs off four hits while striking out three. English pitched the final three innings, allowing one earned run and two unearned runs off two hits and struck out one.
Jones commended the work of his pitching staff in the series.
“Both pitchers had great outings in all three games,” Jones said.
Jones also expressed his pride in his players’ fight and resiliency during the series.
“I couldn’t be happier or more proud of this group of girls,” Jones said. “We have had our up and downs throughout the year, but they still keep finding a way to win. Many of our players were pretty emotional after we got the win and that just shows our staff how much this means to them. Hopefully we can continue and win the next series, regardless this team has made this season very enjoyable for our coaching staff.  We are very proud and happy for everyone of these girls.”
With the victory, the Lady Indians will now gear up to take on Crisp County in the Sweet 16 round of the GHSA State Softball Playoffs in a best-of-three series.
“We just have to continue to build off of our successes and learn from our mistakes and move on from them,” Jones said. “Hopefully, the resiliency we showed in this series will continue into the Crisp series.”
The LCHS varsity softball team will travel to Crisp County today, Oct. 16, for games one and two of the series. Game one is scheduled for 4 p.m. and game two is set to start at 6 p.m.
If necessary, game three of the best-of-three series is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 17, at 5 p.m.