TURBEVILLE - Abby Reardon and Gracen Watts smashed home runs but it was not enough as East Clarendon fell to Lewisville 9-7 in nine innings on Monday in the opener of the best-of-3 1A softball state championship series.
Now the Lady Wolverines …
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Now the Lady Wolverines must travel to the Lady Lions' home field in Richburg on Wednesday and come away with a win in Game 2 to force a third and deciding game on Friday at a neutral site.
"They've got a great pitcher and good hitters," said EC head coach Lisa Ard, whose team dropped to 19-7 on the season. "We put a little pressure on them and they'd respond, then they put a little pressure on us and we'd respond. It was back and forth, and just some mental and physical errors right there were the difference in the ball game."
EC led 6-5 entering the seventh inning before Lewisville third baseman and No. 2 hitter Amber Bass lifted a Marleigh Floyd pitch over the leftfield fence to tie the score and force extra innings.
"That was my fault," Ard said. "I should've never let No. 2 (Bass) hit when I had my lead."
A pivotal play came in the top of the ninth, when the Lady Lions plated three runs after both teams failed to score even with a runner starting the inning at second base under international tiebreaker rules. With Ashley Wood opening the ninth at second, leadoff hitter Alexis Odum reached on an infield single, putting runners on the corners with one out. Ard elected to intentionally walk Bass, loading the bases and setting up what would prove to be a chaotic play.
Lewisville pitcher Chloe Thomas lifted a fly ball to right which was caught with runners breaking at each base. The throw coming into first was short, allowing Bass to return safely. As the ball was recovered, an offline throw came toward the plate and had to be chased down by Reardon, who gathered the ball as Wood had circled back and dove safely into third before briefly looking to make a move for home.
"We could have turned 20 double plays," Ard said. "What do you do? If we could have thrown to first and got the double play when we caught that ball, we would have been out of the inning. We just let them hang around and couldn't get them all at the end. Like I said, if we don't beat ourselves I think we'll be OK."
Failing to get that potential inning-ending double play proved costly for EC as Codi Horne followed with a single to left that plated Wood and Ivy McCall single to just about the same spot to bring home Odum and Bass, putting the Lady Lions up 9-6 heading to the bottom of the inning.
With Tristan Azurdia at second base, Hannah Hickman found a hole on the left side that advanced Azurdia to third. As leftfielder Paige Williamson took her time getting the ball back in, Azurdia rounded third and came home to pull EC within two. That would prove to be the last run of the game as Thomas recovered to strike out Britni Anderson, induce a fly ball to left from Elly Floyd and retire Caitlyn Timmons on a grounder to second.
For such a high-scoring game, it took both teams a while to get going. Thomas and Marleigh Floyd both opened with two shutout innings, with Thomas striking out three and allowing just a leadoff single to Elly Floyd in the first during that span. Marleigh Floyd's only baserunner during that span came on an infield error.
"Since the regular season, which has been almost a month, we haven't seen any pitching," Ard said. "It takes a while to catch back up to it. Even when we do it in practice, that's one thing, but having to come out in the game and see live pitching like that, it's a different story. It took a little while but we started catching on."
Lewisville struck first with three runs in its half of the third as Wood walked, Lauren Crocker singled to right-center and Odum hit into a fielder's choice, with Wood being forced out at third. Thomas came through with a 2-out single up the middle to plate Crocker with the game's first run. Horne followed with another single into right-center that gave the Lady Lions a 3-0 lead after Odum and Bass came around to score.
The Lady Wolverines put up two runs in the bottom of the third as Watts reached on an infield error to score Hickman and Timmons, who had walked and singled. Reardon's homer tied the score in the fourth.
The Reardon home run came a few pitches after the EC catcher had called time and stepped out of the box. Thomas, who was working in her pitches at a fairly rapid rate, seemed thrown off by the delay, even looking at and making a motion toward her wrist.
"Once she (Reardon) got in the box, she (Thomas) was getting quick to the plate," Ard said. "That didn't give the batter a lot of time to get ready and look at (the pitch). She (Reardon) wanted some extra time and she called it. I guess she (Thomas) got upset with it. It just happens."
Lewisville regained the lead with two runs in the fifth, but would not hold it for long. A Thomas grounder and a Horne triple to right-center scored Odum and Bass, who got on due to an infield error and a fielder's choice. EC then tied the score with Watts' 2-run homer in the fifth and took its 6-5 lead in the sixth as Olivia Singletary reached on an infield single, took second on a wild pitch, stole third and came around as catcher McCall's throw to third got away.
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