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The Mauldin High Varsity Softball team hosted the Byrnes Lady Rebels at Clayton Field Friday evening in another 4A Region 2 Showdown between 2 teams ranked in the State's 4A Top 10.  The Lady Mavs impressive Freshman, Amanda Storch, toed the rubber for the home team and faced her opposite pitcher - Byrnes top player and 2010 All Region selection, Cheyenne
Griffin, to start the game. Storch handcuffed griffin and got a groundout to Short where Dana Landers fielded cleanly and threw accurately to Madison Tracey at first for the lead out. Next up was Byrnes senior Slapper , Samantha Vaughn.  Kudos and Laurels go to coach Joseph Terry for practicing and putting his team into an invert position to defend the slapper, because
on the third pitch, Vaughn poked a soft line drive into short center which in most cases would fall for a single, but it went exactly where Jessica Lyles was stationed for the easy catch and second out.  Storch struck out the third batter and retired the Lady Rebels without a blemish in the top of the first.

With one out in the bottom of the first, Senior captain Dana landers excited the good home crowd and her teammates with a triple into deep right centerfield.  Landers was poised to break for home on the throw to first when Deanna Sullivan hit to shortstop, but a defensive bobble upset the timing of the play and the third base coach's laurels wilted as Landers got caught in a rundown between third and home for the second out.  Sullivan advanced to second during the rundown and eagerly anticipated scoring as
her teammate, Kaitlyn Wagers stepped to the plate. Wagers slugged a single into leftfield and Sullivan chugged hard as if to score on the hit. Sullivan put on the brakes as she was held up by her coach at third, but a great heads up play was made by the Brynes pitcher (Griffin) to cut the throw to home from left and fire to third in time to tag Sullivan diving back to third base ended the inning and left the Mauldin fans feeling like an opportunity had been missed.

The narrow escape and good play seemed to motivate the Byrnes squad. Although their first batter flew out to shortstop, their second doubled into the right-centerfield gap.  Another runner reached base on a ground ball to the left side of the infield as Mauldin tried unsuccessfully to make a play on the advancing runner at third.  A courtesy runner for the Byrnes catcher stole second base uncontested as Mauldin protected against the runner scoring from third on the throw.  With two runners in scoring
position and only one out, Storch dug in her young (but big) heels and raised the heat on the Byrnes 7th and 8th batters, striking out both of them in succession to leave the Byrnes rally incomplete and the score 0-0.

Freshman leftfielder Emma Swearingen led off Mauldin's second at bat and reached base on the first pitch after it struck her in the left ribcage.  A weak flyout later, Swaeringen was erased at second on a fielders choice that left Madison Tracy on first with two outs.  She reached second on what should have been another fielders choice, but in this instance the flip from the Byrnes shortstop was dropped by the second baseman and Tracy stood safely on the second sack while Lyles stood at first. Freshman Nadine Hernandez was brought in to run at second base and a clutch hit was what was needed by the Mauldin team and fans. Junior second baseman Bria Barnhill delivered in the form of an RBI double to right center, scoring Hernandez with the games first run and igniting the crowd and her team, but as the strong hit was retrieved from the fence and relayed back into the infield, Mauldin aggressively tried to score Lyles from first.  On a close tag play at the plate, Lyles was called out and the second inning came to a close with Mauldin in the lead, not 2 or 3 to nothing, but with a single run to show for their first circuit of the

The A-Train made it stand up against the Byrnes offense in the tops of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings.  During the stretch she gave up only a single hit and baserunner (Vaughn) in the third, while striking out 5, and getting good defensive help from her infield (Davis, Landers, Barnhill, and Tracey) behind her.  In Mauldin's half of the third however, the lady Mavs proved discontent to let a precarious single run lead remain on the scoreboard.  Again batting with one out, Dana Landers watched 4 straight pitches cross the lefthanders batter box and trotted to first.  Deanna Sullivan walked behind her as well, pushing Landers to second and bringing
a hot bat to the plate in the hands of Kaitlyn Wagers.  The 8th grade Catcher stroked a single into leftfield but Landers was wisely held up at third this time, loading the bases.  Although the boisterous teenage young men on the Mauldin side called for a grand Slam, Emma Swearingen did her job and drove in a second run for her team when she lifted a medium depth sacrifice fly into rightfield that easily scored Landers and should have advanced a tagging runner from second to third.  A free pass to Amanda
Storch on a Hit-by-pitch (what happened to her bubble?) moved the runners and loaded the bases, but a groundout failed to generate any more damage on the scoreboard, but Mauldin's lead had doubled to 2-0 after 3.

The fourth frame for the Lady Mavs failed to produce another run, but featured an impressive one out triple down the right-field line by Bria Barnhill.  Unfortunately successive infield flyouts would not bring Barnhill across the plate with a third run.  Mauldin's fifth inning at bat saw a Wagers walk sandwiched between another pair of flyouts, before back to back 2 out hits by Amanda Storch and Madison Tracey loaded the bases ...but alas, once again the lady Mavs failed to capitalize and stranded 3
more for a total of 9 runners Left on base through 5 innings, but the lead and the game was still in their hands as the top of the  Byrnes order came to bat in the top of the 6th.  From the vantage point of the Ladies and fans in Red and Royal, they were being outhit, but not outscored by much and this contest was far from over.  When Griffin led off with a double down the third baseline, the visiting sideline became excitedly audible.  A mishandling of a  grounder by Mauldin put the tying run at first base, then
a walk issued by Storch loaded the base with no outs and it sounded like the momentum of the game had possibly shifted.  A hard liner to rightfield gave the home fans a start, but it was caught by a hard charging Deanna Sullivan from right and the Byrnes senior pitcher decided against trying to tag and score on the strong armed rightfielder.  Another base on balls, this time issued to the Byrnes leftfielder who had doubled in the first inning, pushed Griffin across the plate with the Lady Rebels first run of the game, cutting Mauldin's slim lead in half with only one out and bases still loaded for the Byrnes softballers.

The next at bat for Byrnes produced both loud cheers and quizzical looks depending on which dugout you were cheering for.  The defensive webgem of the game was turned in by Kaitlyn Wagers when (oddly) the Byrnes lefty bunted less than two feet toward third from the plate. When it did not appear that the squeeze play was on since the runner was still yards from the Lady Mav catcher, Wagers smartly backed up, stepped on home plate, wheeled and fired to first to complete a double play that extricated the Lady Mavs from a sticky situation and the possibility of having their lead in the game overtaken.  The cheers erupted from a relieved Mauldin fan base on the third base dugout side of the field.  The knowledgeable Mauldin fans knew they had escaped a tough spot and would have had to face some regret at earlier offensive runs unscored in this important early Region contest.
      The best medicine for a tight ballgame tension headache is more runs and the bottom of the 6th inning would see two of the Lady Mavs key run producers come to the plate.  Bria Barnhill led off for Mauldin with a sharp single into left, positioning the mighty mite to achieve one of the rarest feats in baseball or softball - hitting for the cycle in a single game !  It would not happen in this game, not because Barnhill (who doubled in the 2nd, tripled in the 4th, and now singled in the 6th) cant hit a homerun, but because she would not get the requisite 4th at-bat in which to do so.  When the popular Junior was forced out at second during the next at bat, her clutch run scoring prowess passed to Brianna Davis who now occupied first base with 4 time All-Region performer Dana Landers at the plate. Still being pitched outside, Landers found one she could reach and drove a missle down the first base line and into the rightfield corner. Davis came all the way from 1st to score on the triple as Landers braked standing up before a happy coach at third base.   Deanna Sullivan drove a single to the right side that scored Landers and the Lady Mavs had a bit more comfortable lead at 4-1.  Kaitlyn Wagers made her first out in two games of Region play on a hard hit line drive that was caught by the Byrnes leftfielder. When the third out was made on a routine groundout to second, the teams traded places and the Lady rebels picked up their bats for their last chance unless they could post three more runs against Storch and her Lady Mav teammates....Not happening !  Storch induced a pair of grounders that Landers scooped and threw to first for a pair of quick 6 to 3 outs. Storch struck out the next batter to record her 9th of the game, but more importantly the game ender.  Mauldin emerged from a fine but flawed performance against a good Byrnes team with an important victory. Congratulations Lady Mavs !

Next up on the trip down Region 2's "Murderers row" is J.L. Mann onTuesday evening at Mauldin's Clayton Field.  It will be a meeting of unbeatens, of two 2010 state champions,  of two of the four top ranked 4A softball teams in the state, to decide who gets to remain atop the Region 2 standings at the first quarter-pole.  It should be an outstanding game - Dont Miss It !  Go Mavs !