Host Summerville rallied in the sixth inning to defeat Clover 3-1 in the first game of the class AAAA state softball championship series Monday night.
Monday’s loss followed a Friday celebration as the Lady Blue Eagles softball team defeated Northwestern 2-1 to nail down the Upper State championship.
Clover students turned out in record numbers to watch the victory, standing behind the outfield fence from the left field line to the right field line.
“It’s a good feeling seeing the whole field lined,” said Olivia Armstrong, a Clover High junior who was part of the elbow-to-elbow student section on Friday. “Even if you didn’t come to a game all season, you come to the playoff game. It’s really big, the energy off that.”
CHS athletic director Carroll Hester got caught up in the excitement. “The atmosphere was awesome,” Hester said. “We had great student body support. The student section was first class. What a great way to spend a Friday night.”
On Monday morning, hundreds of CHS students waved and cheered as the team left the Clover campus.
After Monday, coach Shea Hall reminded the players that all is not lost.
“We’ve got to find a way to regroup and go back to Clover and take one game at a time,” she said. “This is our first day of the playoff championship series. I don’t know if we had a few nerves early.”
Game two of the best-of-three state title series was set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in Clover, after the Enquirer-Herald deadline. A win by Clover would force a third game on a neutral field for the state championship.
During the Summerville game, the Blue Eagles had been clinging to a 1-0 lead since the third inning, when eighth-grader Tiffany Domingue doubled home Blake Wallert. Domingue turned on an 0-2 pitch, with the Green Wave left-fielder giving chase.
“Coach Hall told me to bunt in the beginning,” said Domingue after the game. “I had two strikes on me and was swinging. I have confidence in my hitting.”
Hall talked about missed opportunities after the game.
“I can’t remember but one or two innings where we didn’t get the lead runner on,” said Hall. “We executed poorly and could not bunt people over. One time, Tiffany had a double. I’ll take that.”
Hall said she talks to the players about having quality at-bats.
“I didn’t think we had enough quality at-bats,” she said. “We let them hang around. They’re too good. We knew eventually they’d start hitting the ball. In the sixth inning, they got people on and drove them in. That’s what you’ve got to do to win ball games.”
Hall mulled over what could have been in the top of the seventh. “We get Micah on and we’ve got the top of the lineup,” she said. “Again, we had chances all night.”
Summerville scored all of its runs in the bottom of the sixth. With a runner at first, shortstop Sarah Windham had a well-placed bunt but the throw to first was off the mark, leaving runners at first and third with no outs.
Pitcher Summer Jenkins followed with a double inches inside the third base bag, scoring both runners. Victoria Norris delivered an RBI single for a 3-1 lead.
Hall told the players all of that’s got to go out the window. “They’ve seen their opponent,” she added. “They know the adjustments they’ve got to make. You just got to do it.”
Hall said that in some ways, Clover and Summerville are mirror images. “Both teams like to move people over and the pitchers are evenly matched,” she said.
With Monday’s win, Summerville set a school record for number of wins in a season with 30.
During Friday’s game against Northwestern, with Clover’s Elizabeth Edmunds and Northwestern’s Kori Wancheck on the mound, runs were scarce.
The visiting Trojans scored their lone run in the top of the first, when a slightly-out-of-reach blooper fell for a base hit, setting the stage for Wancheck’s RBI-double in the gap.
The Lady Blue Eagles dotted the scoreboard in the bottom of the second when Missy Mavrogian opened the inning with a triple.
Edmunds belted a long fly ball to left-field, allowing Mavrogian to score easily from third.
Micah Sherwood’s opposite-field single opened the third inning.
After attempting two bunts, Clover second-baseman Blake Wallert ripped an 0-2 pitch that bounced off the top of the left field fence, sending Sherwood across the plate with the go-ahead run.
“That was the best feeling in the world,” Wallert said of the game-winning hit. “I had two strikes ‘cause I couldn’t put a bunt down. She pitched it right down the middle.”
Added Wallert: “I thought it was gone but it got a run in.”
Last season, the Clover team missed a state title appearance by a single run. “We had it taken away from us and it broke our heart,” Wallert said. “We had to do it tonight. I’m so proud of everyone.”
Hall lauded Wallert’s hitting and Edmund’s pitching during the Northwestern game. “Elizabeth did a great job,” she said. “I am happy for all of the players and proud of them.”