(2010 - 2011) - Softball

vs. J.L. Mann High School,

Date: Mar. 15, 2011
Time: 06:00 PM
Location: Mauldin High School


      In a much anticipated, and once rain delayed 4A Region 2 matchup,
Defending 4A State Champ Mauldin played host to the two time defending 3A
State Champion Lady Patriots of JL Mann.  After rain on Tuesday forced
postponement of this game between the #3 and #1 4A  State ranked teams,
tied atop the Region 2 standings at  2 - 0,  the two proud and confident
teams met on Clayton Field in Mauldin for an important game.  Some of the
anticipation was related to hopes of seeing how the Young Lady Mavs would
fare against Mann's Alabama bound Senior pitching sensation, Leslie Jury.
But Jury was scratched from the Mann lineup with Back Spasms, so like
Mauldin, the Lady Patriots turned the ball over to a talented Freshman for
this big game. Karen Hawkins for Mann against Amanda Storch for Mauldin.
      Storch took the mound first for the home team and showed some early
game jitters in walking the Mann leadoff hitter. Settling down, she struck
out the second and erased her earlier base award by turning a double play
on the next batter to retire the side.  It was a line shot hit back to the
mound, gloved by Storch, who then alertly spun and threw to Sophomore
Madison Tracey to double off the runner at first base. For the Lady Mavs,
Sophomore Brianna Davis started her team off on the right foot early by
launching a double into deep right centerfield.  An out later, freshman
Deanna Sullivan stung an RBI single into right center, scoring Davis to
give the Lady Mavs a 1-0 lead. With two outs and Sullivan on first,
Freshman Emma Swearingen singled up the middle, but no more runs would
cross the plate in the 1st inning as the next Mauldin hitter flew out to
left to end the inning.
      The second, third and fourth innings looked like a pitchers dual with
some Rec. ball type error plays thrown in to keep it interesting.  Storch
retired the Lady Patriots in order in the second with a strikeout and help
from Swearingen in left and Dana Landers at short.  With the exception of a
nice 2 out line drive into rightfield through the 3-4 hole by Bria Barnhill
in the bottom of the second, the Lady Mavs went down quietly on routine
infield groundouts and a lazy fly ball out to right.  Barnhill and Landers
made good infield plays in the top of the third to net 2 outs against the
Mann squad before a dropped ball at first put Mann's speedy 9th hitter on
base.  Mann's Haley Thornton then was called safe at second with a stolen
base in spite of a good throw and tag, thus Mann had its first runner in
scoring position.  Thornton got no further.  Bria Barnhill collected a hard
hit line drive at her position for the third out.  In Mauldin's half of the
third, Dee Dee Sullivan got her second hit of the ballgame with a one out
single to right-center.  A flyout later, Swearingen hit a hard grounder to
third base that was mishandled and #6 reached base for the second time in
the game while Sullivan was in scoring position again.  The big
rightfielder would also get no further when Hawkins recorded her second K
of the game against a Maverick and the out that ended the third inning.
      The top of the fourth saw Storch hitting her form.  She struck out
the speedy slapper manning the #2 spot in the Lady Patriot order, then
induced a thrice touched groundball out to the right side of the Mauldin
infield - a collaborative, if not textbook, effort between Tracey and
Barnhill.  The next Mann hitter sent a high fly into short left field that
was missed, then kicked, resulting in the batter reaching second.  The
miscue cost no more than a red face because Storch squashed thoughts of a
two-out rally with a strikeout of her freshman pitching counterpart.  In
the bottom of the fourth, Dana Landers punched a one out, two strike
changeup into center for a hit, but watched dissapointedly from first as
her mates flied out to Mann's leftfielder and shortstop successively for
the second and third outs.
      The Lady Patriots went back to their dugout for their offensive half
of the 6th inning, realizing they were down by only a single run, but with
only 6 outs remaining to do something about it, they would need to address
the fact that Storch had not allowed them a single hit in the game through
5 innings...  Make that 5.33 innings when Storch herself fielded an
attempted bunt and threw to Barnhill covering first for out # 1 in the 6th.
Facing the top of the Mann order with only 5 outs remaining for the
visitors, Storch threw a pitch that was favored by leadoff Patriot Leah
Young for a double over the Mauldin centerfielder's head.  Fleet Mann
infielder Kinney Davis then slapped a slow rolling infield single to short.
Landers could not get Young to bite on a fake throw to first as Young
retreated safely to second representing the tying run, while her middle
infield mate, Kinney Davis, represented the go-ahead run at first.  More
cooperation between first baseman Madison Tracey and second baseman Bria
Barnhill retired the side and kept Mann scoreless as back-to-back
right-side groundouts went into the book 4 to 3 and 3 to 4.
      In Mauldins offensive half of the 6th inning it was time for one or
more insurance runs... And, as has often been the case this season, that
meant timely veteran hitting heroics.  The heroes this time however were
not the usual suspects.... Freshman Emma Swearingen continued her good
offensive showing this night with a lead-off single.  Freshman Pinch hitter
Nadine Hernandez was called upon by her coach, Joseph Terry, to bunt
Swearingen over to second.  As Hawkins wound up, Hernandez squared but
never really got a chance to lay down the sacrifice. The first pitch
struck her on the foot.  Hernandez trotted to first as Swearingen moved to
second and "big hit" Tracey stepped into the batters box.   Madison did
exactly as Coach Terry signaled and laid down the perfect sacrifice bunt to
the right side that had eluded Hernandez.  It moved both Swearingen (3rd)
and Hernandez (2nd) into scoring position for Senior centerfielder Jessica
Lyles, batting with one out.  Lyles delivered an RBI single into short
centerfield that easily scored Swearingen and moved Hernandez to third.
Lyles alertly took second on the throw to the plate that kept Hernandez
from trying to score.  The needed insurance run had crossed the plate, but
Mauldin had a chance to score more with the top of their order coming to
the plate, two outs on th board, and two runners in scoring position.  An
ugly opportunity was squandered when a poorly played fly over foul
territory near third base bounced untouched into the field of play in front
of the bag.  Two runners were moving as prescribed with two outs and
crossed the plate with runs that would have counted if the batter had done
the same.  Instead of heeding what coaches have told players since tee ball
and "run(ning) it out", the batter spectated too long before realizing what
had happened and starting towards first.  Mann's third baseman collected
her wits and the ball then threw to her first baseman for the odd force
out, negating the runs and bringing Mann to the plate with three more
chances in the top of the 7th, now down by two runs.
      It looked like that would be all that Storch needed as she struck out
the first Mann batter.  The second hitter, Madison Templeton, arced a
basehit into leftfield to give the visitors renewed hope.  Mann's Morgan
Smith was brought in to pinch-hit and delivered an RBI double into the
leftfield corner, scoring Templeton to cut Mauldin's lead in half with one
out and the tying run now on second base.  With the momentum seemingly on
Mann's side of the field, Storch figuratively but  familiarly tightened her
belt, reached deep down, pulled up the big girl panties, got tough, and
refused to give in to another hitter !  She struck out Mann's 8th batter
and fielded a bouncer back to the mound from the 9th, and threw her out at
first to notch the third out of the 7th inning, and Mauldin's third Region
and ninth 2011 regular season win against no losses.
      This was a title fight that demands a rematch.  It was an exciting
nail biter of a game, but not one that would be called classic or textbook.
The Lady Mavs took round one of this heavyweight title series by grit and
decision.  They outhit the Lady Patriots 8 to 4 and got a couple more
clutch performances offensively and defensively than their new crosstown
rivals.  But supporters of the Orange and Brown know that this game was not
the kind of knockout that would send a memorable or dispiriting message to
the Lady Patriots - they will bounce back quickly and both contend for and
affect this Region race to the bitter end. Fans of both teams will have to
wait three weeks for round two, taking place just South of the Motor Mile
down the road from JL Mann High School on April 7th.