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      The showdown for the District 2 Championship was set for Wednesday
evening at 5:30
at Spring Valley High School.  Mauldin Varsity Softball
team lost their right to host the Finals by virtue of a (lack of) offensive
performance against the Lady Vikings of Spring Valley 4 days earlier.  Thus
the Mauldin Softballers got on the bus after lunch and 1/2 day of school
and travelled to Richland County, North of Columbia under clear blue skies.
The Lady Mavs arrived at the Dormanesque campus and walked beside the
arched brick colonnades of the football stadium overlooking the large but
less architecturally post-modern softball field.  Not only did the young
Mavericks need to exact revenge upon the Lady Vikings for the earlier 1-0
defeat, but they would need to defeat them twice to claim the District
crown which had been earned by this team's predecessors in each of the past
three years. To be successful Mauldin would have to continue to play the
good defense and get the excellent pitching performances they had ridden to
this point, but they would have to hit more consistently as a team than
they had in their previous 4 games.
      As Mauldin assumed the visitors dugout and role, they would have the
opportunity to strike first - to make a statement - to draw first blood.
With one out in the opening frame, Freshman Emma Swearingen lined a single
through the 5-6 hole and the well travelled Mauldin faithful roared its
approval.  Swearingen promptly stole second base and the visitors side
cheering elevated a notch.  A flyout to rightfield and a strikeout quieted
the crowd and precipitated the changeover.  Spring Valley fared no better
in the bottom of the first as they sent three batters to the plate and
Amanda Storch, Bria Barnhill, and Madison Tracey sent them back to the
dugout on a strikeout, short pop-up, and a bouncer back to the pitcher's
      Mauldin failed to inspire in the top halves of the second or third
innings either. Their loving fans squirmed and chafed familiarly as 4
infield groundouts and two flyouts to the the outfield left them scoreless
and with little to cheer about. The Mauldin battery of Kaitlyn Wagers and
Amanda Storch kept working and kept the game knotted at nothing to nothing.
Storch gave up a walk to the Lady Vikes to lead off the bottom of the
second.  An error along the first base line allowed a bunter to reach
safely, but with no outs and runners on 1st and second, the A-Train whiffed
the next two batters in short order.  With two outs the home team tried a
double steal, but Kaitlyn Wagers gunned to Sophomore Brianna Davis at third
to nail the catcher's courtesy runner for the third out.  Storch gave up
consecutive two out hits to the top of the Viking order in the bottom of
the third before bearing down and striking out the big first baseman who
notched 3 of Spring Valley's 4 hits in the previous contest in Mauldin.
      The top of the fourth would see the heart of the Lady mav batting
come to the plate.  Anticipation pulsed through the visitors
bleachers and dugout.  Emma Swearingen led off by stinging a shot at the
shortstop which proved too hot to handle as the Freshman left-fielder
reached first...and stole second for the second time in the young game.
Senior captain Dana Landers next crushed the optic yellow spheroid towards
the deepest recesses of the cavernous field.  A standup triple just right
of center scored Swearingen and the Lady Mavs were on the board.  Cheers of
joy mixed with relief errupted...then got louder as Freshman Deanna
Sullivan crunched a double to rightcenter that scored Landers. Another
error on the Viking shortstop put Wagers on first but more importantly
scored Sullivan.  A pair of fielder's choice groundouts and a pop fly to
second ended the Mauldin rally but not before the lady Mavs had posted a 3
spot on the scoreboard for the ladies in green, white, and yellow to chase.

      The Lady Vikings responded positively to their deficit...or the Lady
Mavs reacted poorly to their lead in the bottom of the 4th.  The first two
Spring Valley batters reached on infield throwing or handling errors.  An
uncontested stolen base put both runners in scoring position, but Storch
dug in her heels and got a strikeout.  Then a nice play was made by Brianna
Davis to stop a hard shot, check the runner at third and complete the
batted out by throwing a strike to fellow Sophomore Maddie Tracey.  Landers
scooped the next attempt and threw a strike to Tracey for the third out....
and out of a jam !  In the top of the 5th, Senior captain Jessica Lyles
started things off with a slashed single down the third base line and was
sacrificed to second on a nice bunt by Brianna Davis.  A groundout to third
and a flyout to rightfield left Lyles unrequited at second base.  Would the
bottom of the 5th prove Mauldin's undoing or provide the impetus for the
drama that unfolded subsequently ?
      Spring Valley's coaching staff sent a pinch hitter to lead off the
bottom of the 5th and she rewarded their confidence with a base-on balls.
The Lady Vikes leadoff hitter then swatted another single to left and their
lanky second baseman sacrifice bunted the pair to third and second
respectively.  The big first baseman then grounded to short, scoring the
first runner when the low throw was mishandled at first.  A walk to the
Viking catcher loaded the bases with one out.  Storch and Wagers finessed a
strikeout for the second out but didnt finesse the next batter quite enough
- Lauren Skinner of Spring Valley banged a triple into straightaway
centerfield, scoring all of the previously basebound runners, making the
updated score, Spring Valley 4, Mauldin 3 - OUCH !    Mauldin got a one out
hit in the top of the 6th from Kaitlyn Wagers and another with 2 outs by
Madison Tracey but a groundout prevented Wager's courtesy runner, Nechie
Songalia, from scoring the tying run in the 6th.  There didnt seem to be
any give-up or lack of heart in the Lady Mavs, but they were lacking the
big key hit...and would be down to their last three outs when next they
came to bat !  In the bottom of the 6th, Storch showed that she hadnt given
up nor lost heart, striking out the first two batters before giving up a
hit and then striking out the third to bring her team up to bat for the
final time if the 2011 season unless they could generate at least one, and
possibly more than one run.
      The Lady Mavs top half of the 7th began inauspiciously - with a
groundout to second. Then leadoff batter Brianna Davis flared a single into
short rightfield.  Emma Swearingen then put a Texas-leaguer behind first
base for a second hit that was not stopped or picked up immediately
allowing  Davis and Swearingen to advance another base each.  The Mauldin
sideline and dugout reached crescendo pitch with Mauldin's leading hitter
Dana Landers at the plate with one out and the tying run only 60 feet away.
This fact was not lost on the Vikings staff.  A timeout was called and a
conference at the mound must have conveyed the message that Landers should
see nothing good to hit.  Not making a mistake made by Woodmont, Landers
took the intentional walk to the unoccupied first base.  No pressure for
Freshman rightfielder Deanna Sullivan, right ?  Bases loaded, down by a
run, the crowd roaring encouragement and instructions, not wanting the
season to end..............BOOM !  Sullivan belted a pitch to the fence in
leftcenterfield that scored Davis, Swearingen, and a hard-charging Landers
from first.  The 3 RBI double tilted the score in Mauldin's favor 6-4.  A
groundout later, Sullivan had moved to third and Storch was in the batters
.  The Freshman Pitching sensation picked a great moment to get her
first hit of May as she helped her own and her team's cause with an RBI
single into centerfield, plating Sullivan with Mauldin's 7th score.  There
was so much joy and emotion coursing through the Ladies in Orange and Brown
they couldnt be finished, even when things looked a little bleak 1-2
innings earlier.  Madison Tracey stepped to the plate with Nikki Smith
(running for Storch) on first base.  She mis-hit a roller to shortstop but
hustled towards first.  Emblematic of her whole team's desire to win, the 6
footer dove headfirst into first base - a risky play for an experienced MLB
speedster and seemingly out of character for the softspoken slugger from
Mauldin, but she beat the throw to first by the lengths of her long fingers
and bitten off nails, kept the rally alive, and allowed Smith to reach
third base on the play.  A flyball out ended the rally without another
score, but the heart and desire shown in that brief moment and play would
carry through her team and the Mauldin fans well past the end of this game
      The end of this game indeed !  Pumped up by Sullivan's clutch BOMB
and Tracey's gutsy effort, Amanda Storch  induced  the Viking's big 1st
baseman to groundout to Davis at third, then struck out the next two
batters to seal the game.  In doing so, Storch recorded a season high 12
strikeouts on the game.  She also earned her 20th win of the season, but
more importantly she helped her team be in position to play the final and
championship game of District a half hour !