DUNCAN — Byrnes‘ pitcher Regan Messenger epitomized her softball team’s undying intensity when she clenched both fists and boisterously encouraged teammates in making her way back to the dugout after being lifted for a courtesy runner.
Her single to left got Byrnes to within three runs of Clover, 5-2, but there were only two outs remaining in which to pull off a remarkable comeback. Her teammates got the message and delivered a 6-5 victory.
Byrnes plays Tuesday at the winner of Mauldin/Northwestern. That game was postponed by rain Saturday. Mauldin and Northwestern play Monday.
“It was a dreary day and we played kind of dreary,” Byrnes coach Brandi Aiken said. “I don’t know that we played the best seven innings, but we played the best seventh.”
Two batters after Messenger, Allison Neely delivered a bases-loaded triple to deep left field on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game. Lauren Duggar then brought home the game-winner by lining a single off the third-baseman’s glove, allowing the fast Neely to scamper home as her teammates went crazy.
“After I saw the ball go over the left fielder's head, I said I’ve got to get to third,” said Neely, who never hesitated in rounding second. “Coach Aiken told me if I saw an outside pitch to just go with it and I saw it and hit the (heck) out of it.”
Duggar’s game-winning at-bat started with a 0-2 count with pitcher Elizabeth Edmunds determined to keep the ball on the outside part of the plate. With Neely possessing outstanding speed, Duggar was looking to just get something in the air to the outfield.
“Honestly my goal was to get it in the air and I knew she’d tag and come home because there was only one out,” Duggar said. “But she kept throwing me outside and I couldn’t pull it. I don’t even know how to even describe (the win). I think we’ve proven to ourselves that we could do it and we never gave up and the dugout never got down and we kept hitting the ball.”
The seventh began with a walk to Bailey Pearson – who only knew the morning of the game she’d be able to play after suffering a knee injury in Wednesday’s win – before an RBI-double by catcher Malibu Gaston. Kate Burnett also singled and later scored.
Byrnes didn’t have a base runner over the first three innings and when Duggar and Parker Birch both singled to start the fourth, a hard grounder to short turned into a triple play with Duggar being out trying to score. In the next inning, Gaston was called out in a close play at the plate for the second out. In the sixth, the Rebels wasted a lead-off double by Tatum Arboleda.
Clover scored all five runs in the third inning. Edmunds capped the inning with a three-run homer to left.
Scoring for Clover were Blake Wallert, Marisa Harkey, Shania Dominque, Michalle Aragon and Edumunds.
Messenger would only allow one runner to reach third over the remainder.
Edmunds, 20-7 for the season, allowed nine hits, walked one and struck out one.
With the loss Clover fell to 23-7. Byrnes is 22-4.