On a Simpsonville "Chamber of Commerce" February weekend
weather-wise, The Mauldin Varsity Softball team gathered at Heritage Park
with 19 other South Carolina Piedmont and Upstate High school softball
teams to play in the Snowball Classic Early Season Softball tournament,
hosted by Southside Christian School.  4 teams in each of 5 pools would
play each other to determine seeding for Bracket play on Saturday
      First up in Pool 3 on Friday evening were the 2A Palmetto High
Mustangs.  Freshman Amanda Storch got the assignment of corralling the
Mustangs in the opening game, and did exactly that !   Over 6 innings the
"A-train" spaced 2 hits and one walk in separate innings while striking out
11 over 6 shutout offensive innings for the visiting ladies in Red.   For
the home lady Mavs in Brown and white, Dana Landers singled and scored in
the first on a double by Dee Dee Sullivan.  An out later, Emma Swearingen
singled home Sullivan to take a 2 to nothing lead into the second
inning...and into the third inning also.  Mauldin erupted for 3 more runs
in the 3rd and 4 in the 4th to take a 9-0 lead.  That lead stood and would
be the final score when time expired after 5 1/2 innings.  Offensive stars
for the Mauldin Softballers were Senior captain Dana Landers  (3 for 3 with
2 doubles, 3 runs scored, and an RBI), Freshman Dee Dee Sullivan (2 for 3
with a double, 3 runs scored, and 2 RBIs), and Freshman Emma Swearingen (2
for 3 with 3 RBIs).
      On a brisk Saturday morning, the Lady Mavs lined up to play a young
and developing team from Greenville Tech Charter School.  Junior Bria
Barnhill toed the rubber for the Mauldin squad and proceeded to show that
she hasnt forgotten her Recreational and 14U Travel Ball training as she
and the Lady Mav defense made short work of the Warriors attack.  Barnhill
gave up only a single hit and a single walk to the ladies in Royal blue,
hurling 3 shutout innings to claim the win.  Offensively, the Lady Mavs
scored early and often in a contest that quickly became empathetically
painful to watch. 8th Grade catcher Katelyn Wagers led the attack with a 3
hit, 3 RBI  performance. Dee Dee Sullivan notched an inside the park
homerun for one of her 3 scores. Bria Barnhill also scored three times for
the Lady Mavs, who amassed 9 hits and 17 runs in 2 offensive frames.  The
game was decided by the mercy rule after 2 1/2 innings.
      At noon, the Lady Mavs hosted an excitable team of Generals in black
from Wade Hampton high School.  The lady generals opened the top of the
first with a hit and a run 2 outs later and after another hit and a walk.
This would be the first run given up in this early part of the 2011
campaign by the Lady Mavs...but it would not be the last on this day ...
Freshman pitcher Nadine Hernandez settled down and struck out her opposing
pitcher to close the top of the first.  Mauldin's varsity softball team
answered immediately and emphatically with a solid hit by Brianna Davis and
a double by Dana Landers to tie the score. Then a string of Wade Hampton
errors on hard hit balls resulted in 6 more Mauldin runners, all of whom
would score before the second out was recorded against the Lady Mavs in the
first frame. Davis added a second single in the first inning and 2 more in
the 2nd inning  to lead the Maudlin attack.  Dana Landers added an RBI
triple in the first inning followed by singles from Nadine Hernandez and
Bria Barnhill to conclude the first inning scoring at 12 runs.  Hernandez
and Barnhill singled back to back again in the second inning before Senior
Co-Captain Jessica Lyles crushed a ground rule double down the leftfield
line and Davis collected her second RBI with her 4th hit of the brief
contest making the score 18-1 after 2 complete.
      Hernandez meanwhile was doing a great job on the mound for the Lady
Mavs, scattering 4 hits and 2 walks, peppered with 4 strikeouts as she
allowed only 2 runs in 4 frames to the Lady Generals.  The final score was
18-2 in 3 1/2 innings.  At 3-0 in pool play, it was virtually assured that
the lady mavs had earned the right to play in the championship bracket, but
the seeding and opponent, as well as the time of their semi-final game
would have to wait while the deserving Lady Mavs got some lunch, caught up
on their text messaging, and relaxed on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
      At a little after 3:00 pm it was determined that Mauldin and Daniel
had tied for the top seed, by allowing the tournament's fewest "runs
against" and a coin flip decided that the lady Mavs would get the top seed
and play at 3:30 against 4th seeded Chapin High School - last years
champions of the Snowball classic and victors over the eventual 2010 4A
state Champion Mauldin Mavericks.  Daniel would play the #3 seeded and much
improved team from Walhalla in the other championship bracket semi-final
game.  Undefeated winner of Pool #4, 4A region 2 foe Dorman was relegated
to the Platinum Bracket with 4A opponents Dutch Fork and Westside, with 2A
Dixie or Palmetto by virtue of a larger number of runs allowed (8 vs
Chapin's 7) to their opponents in pool play.
      With revenge on their minds, the Lady Mavs took the field behind Ace
Amanda Storch in the top of the first. Captain Dana Landers converted a
leadoff grounder into a 6-3 play to 1st baseman Madi Tracey.  Storch
struck out the second batter and Landers chased a bloop into short
left-center to send the Lady Eagles onto the field to defend against the
Lady Mav attack. The Mauldin softballers drew first blood after Brianna
Davis rocked a triple over the Chapin rightfielder's head, Landers walked,
and Dee Dee Sullivan rapped an RBI single into left to score Davis.
Katelyn Wagers sacrificed Landers to third and Sullivan to second, but a
pair of strikeouts ended the Maverick threat in the 1st.  In the top of the
second a bloop into short-center resulted in a scary collision between Bria
Barnhill and Jessica Lyles that drew blood, resulted in an Eagle runner on
first, and stopped play for 20 minutes while trainers attended to the
Senior Co-Captain, who gamely insisted on completing the game. An
ill-advised or placed riseball to Chapin's pitcher, hitting in the 5th spot
in the visitors order, was driven over the left-centerfield fence to give
Chapin a 2-1 lead.  After a walk and a flyout to Lyles in center, Storch
struck out the next two batters and put the Lady Mavs back on offense.
      Mauldin failed to threaten in a three up, three down bottom of the
second, but Miss Storch would give up no further ground to the 3A
powerhouse Eagles.  In three more offensive innings for Chapin, the Lady
Eagles managed only two more hits - a single in the third that was erased
by a double play when Sullivan caught a fly in right and gunned the runner
out off of first with a laser throw to Madison Tracey at first.  Storch
would strike out 3 more Chapin hitters and was backed up by good defense
from Davis, Landers, and Bria Barnhill in the 4th and 5th.  The game would
rest in the hands of the Mauldin offense who had never trailed after a full
inning in the 2011 season.  As the temperature outside dropped, the Lady
Mav bats and determination stayed hot. Landers walked again with one out in
the bottom of the third when Sullivan answered Chapin's homer with one of
her own - a howitzer blast over the leftfield fence scoring Landers ahead
of her and posting for Mauldin a 3-2 lead.  Freshman Emma Swearingen hit a
two out double and scored on a Storch basehit to right before the 3rd
inning came to a close.  Mauldin added an insurance run in the 4th when
Junior Bria Barnhill smacked a double into left and scored on a Landers
basehit to left-center.  When Storch and the Mauldin infield recorded three
outs in the top of the 5th, time expired and the Lady Mavs were in the
finals !  They would face 2A 2010 state finalist Daniel and their 6 foot
200 pound 2 sport star, Carley Hoover, whose Lion team defeated Walhalla in
a tight 3-2 second semi-final.
      Amanda Storch toed the rubber for the Lady Mavs and struck out the
Daniel leadoff hitter before giving up a basehit to the second batter.
That baserunner got no farther than second base when Storch fielded a
bouncer and threw to Tracey at first for the second out and Sophomore
Brianna Davis went to the ground and threw from her knees to get the
cleanup hitter at first for the final out in the top of the first.
Hard-throwing Hoover started for the Lady Lions and struck out 3 Lady Mavs
in the first inning - interrupted only by a ground-rule double by Dana
Landers hit hard and bounced over the right-centerfield fence. Landers
stole third, but like the Daniel hitter minutes earlier, was left stranded
in a scoreless first inning .  Neither team managed to solve the opposing
pitchers in the second inning and the scoreless championship final went
into a cold and exciting third inning.  Landers and Davis turned ground
balls into outs with fine plays and throws to first and Storch struck out
the Lions leadoff hitter again to close the top of the third inning. Steely
Junior Bria Barnhill led off for Mauldin in the bottom of the third with a
basehit through the 3-4 hole.  Davis' sacrifice bunt moved Barnhill to
second and landers drove her home with a clutch basehit up the middle.  A
fielders choice out and a strikeout ended the Mauldin 3rd frame, but not
before the lady Mavs had taken a slim 1-0 lead over the tough Lady Lions.
      Daniel answered in the 4th inning when a misplayed bunt put a runner
on base.  A popout to Davis at third later, Big Carley Hoover came to the
plate and lifted an outside pitch over the right-centerfield fence to give
the Lady lions a 2-0 lead.  Daniel managed another hit in the inning but
not another score as Tracey and Barnhill hauled in outs to put their team
back on the offensive.  Pitchers dominated in the bottom of the 4th
(Hoover) and the top of the 5th (Storch) with each striking out a pair and
allowing one baserunner but no scores.  With time running out, the Lady
Mavs needed to score in the bottom of the 5th to keep their hopes of a
championship alive.  There could be no better lead-off hitter for Mauldin
in this situation than Bria Barnhill...and Mauldin's #1, with less than
half the mass of the hard throwing Daniel pitcher, battled fiercely through
a 10+ pitch at bat, fouling off pitch after pitch, until the count went
full and Hoover flinched... Barnhill earned the base on balls and the Lady
Mavs had their tying run on base with no outs.  An out later, Dana Landers,
with her third hit of the game - this time down the leftfield line, moved
Barnhill to third.  A strikeout put Mauldin down to its last out, but a
couple of pitches later, Hoover flinched again and Barnhill took advantage,
speedily crossing homeplate with the tying run while the Daniel catcher
scrambled for the passed ball.  Another strikeout ended the inning, and
with time expired and the score tied 2-2, the 6th frame would begin under
international tie-breaking rules and a runner on second base for each team.
      Daniel effectively sacrifice bunted their runner to third, and with
one out Miss Carley Hoover came to the plate.  Some might have walked the
big power hitter, but with confidence in Storch, Coach Joseph Terry elected
to pitch to her.  Hoover rocketed a shot toward Barnhill at second who
caught the drive and threw to third to try and double off the runner. The
ball was overthrown and as the runner re-tagged third and took off for the
plate, Brianna Davis calmly and quickly collected the ball at the dugout
fence and threw a strike to a stoic and solid Katelyn Wagers blocking the
plate and applying the tag to the stunned and flailing runner for the third
      Senior Krystina Simms became the runner at second base in the bottom
of the 6th and it would prove fortuitous. Freshman Emma Swearingen laid
down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Simms to third.  Amanda Storch bunted
with a safety squeeze play called by coach Terry, but the veteran Daniel
third baseman collected the ball and faked a throw to first to get Simms to
commit to the plate.  Simms broke and the throw went to the catcher ahead
of Simms.  Without hesitation Simms reversed directions and dove back to
third just ahead of a tag to her helmet.  Storch advanced to second amidst
the melee and the Lady Mavs had two runners in scoring position with one
out. At the plate for Mauldin was their tall and modelesque first baseman,
Madison Tracey.  Possibly nervous because she had not fared well in this
game heretofore against the Daniel pitching...but it didnt show.  Two
pitches into the at-bat, Tracey spanked a hard bouncer to the right of the
pitcher and just beyond the reach of the Daniel second baseman for a Game
and tournament winning RBI basehit.  Simms, who by staying alive against a
very heads-up defensive play, extended the inning and Tracey delivered the
final blow that scored Simms and claimed the Championship for the  Lady
Mavs in a 3-2 extra-inning thriller !
      Congratulations to the Lady Maverick Varsity Softball team -
Champions of the 2011 snowball Classic Softball tournament.  It was a
thrilling and unifying team win in which everyone contributed and should
rightfully be proud.  Mauldin has yet to lose a game in the early going of
this 2011 campaign, but in truth, the competition has not been on par with
what the young Lady Mavs will face in Region play...until the semifinals of
this Snowball tournament !  The Mauldin team showed grit and determination
in coming from behind three times against good pitching and quality
defenses in the two final games.  Chapin will figure deep into the 3A state
tournament at the end of the season just as Daniel will contend for the 2A
state championship.  Both of those teams dispatched 4A teams in pool play
to reach the Championship bracket.  Make no mistake, the 2011 Lady Mavs,
have room and the need to improve...and they are running low on time to do
it, but they have now notched a pair of quality wins and demonstrated that
they will be a force to be reckoned with in 4A region 2 - the toughest and
deepest in the State !  Congratulations to the Mauldin Lady Mav Varsity
softball team - Snowball Tournament Champions of 2011 !
      Next up for the Mauldin softballers in their final pre-season game
against another 2A powerhouse - Crescent High, at home on Tuesday March 1st
at 5:30 pm.  Be there to support our young but accomplished Mauldin Varsity
Softball team on their home turf.  Go Mavs !                 2/26/11