Lauren Duggar and Bailey Pearson are the only seniors on the Byrnes High softball team, but they’re providing their younger teammates with plenty of leadership by example.
Duggar scored three times and Pearson had four hits and pitched a complete game as the Rebels beat Clover, 7-1, Friday night to win the Upper State championship in 4A.
The Rebels (24-4) play host to Bluffton at 6 p.m. Monday in the first game of the best-of-three state championship series. Game 2 will be at Bluffton on Wednesday and the third game, if necessary, will be at a neutral site next Friday.
I think us being leaders and being among the first three batters and getting on base, it gets our team up and they want to hit after us,” Pearson said of the role she and Duggar play. “They follow us because we’ve always led the team.”
“We had a few hits go our way and they made a few errors,” Duggar said. “We kept going, stayed up and got it rolling.”
Duggar, who has signed to play for Furman, started all three Byrnes rallies. She walked and scored on Pearson’s infield hit in the first, reached on an error and scored on a Pearson single in the decisive five-run fifth and doubled and scored on a two-base throwing error in the sixth.
“I can’t ask for more from her,” Byrnes coach Brandi Aiken said of Duggar. “She struck out tonight for only the fourth time all year. She’s a leader in every aspect of the game.”
Aiken said Pearson’s production has stepped up in the playoffs.
“She batted over .400 this season, but she didn’t have some big hits like she’s had in the past,” Aiken said. “With the other night at Mauldin (three hits) and tonight, she’s just seeing it. It’s the right time for her to come alive.”
Clover’s run came in the fourth, tying the score.
“I just knew that we’d go back in and score more,” Pearson said. “We call ourselves the comeback kids.”
Duggar agreed. “Our philosophy is to win the inning. We had won the innings up to that point and we knew we’d come back and win the inning. We got the run back and wound up winning it.”
Byrnes took advantage of two errors, a defensive lapse when no one covered first base on a bunt and three wild pitches in the fifth. The Rebels also had four hits, including a two-run double by Tatum Arboleda to cap the uprising.
“We’d hit it really solid an inning or two before, and I kept telling them it would get through,” Aiken said. “And it did. I thought Tatum’s hit kind of put the nail in the coffin.”
“We’d been able to overcome some bad innings with our bats, but we certainly couldn’t score that tonight by scoring just one run,” said Clover coach Shea Hall. “But hats off to Byrnes; they played well. We’re trying to stay focused on all the good that happened this season. Obviously, in a time like this it’s kind of difficult. But the sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll look back and reflect on a good season.”
“I thought I was going to be really emotional about it, but I wasn’t because I’m so happy,” Pearson said of the Upper State title. “Our team really deserves it. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
Katie Burnett added three hits for Byrnes.
Byrnes 7, Clover 1
WP – Pearson. LP – Edmunds. 2B—Duggar (B), Pearson (B), Arboleda (B). Records – Clover 25-8, Byrnes 24-4.