When the trip started, the front seat was soft and comfortable, but when the road ran out for Indian Land's Lady Warriors softball team, the comfort was replaced by lumps.
Indian Land was sitting exactly where it wanted to be Friday night in the championship of the Class A Upper State softball playoffs.
To earn a chance to win a 10th straight title, all the Lady Warriors had to do was beat rival Buford in the first game. Buford was having none of that. The Lady Yellow Jackets won the opener 5-2 to force a second and deciding game. The winner would move on to this week's best-of-three series against Johnsonville for the state championship. This year, it's Buford's turn to go.
The Lady Yellow Jackets won the second game 6-0 and eliminated the Lady Warriors. There were several factors that proved to be the downfall for Indian Land. It would be hard to say which had the most impact, but added together they were just too much for the Lady Warriors to overcome.
They made 11 errors in the two games, five in the first and six in the second. That will kill any team.
Indian Land hit the ball, but they came mostly when the bases were empty.
And then there was Buford pitcher Jena Hallman, who mowed down the Lady Warriors with 12 strikeouts in the first game and six in the second.
"This is really a tough way to end my career at Indian Land," said Kristin Campbell, who, with Alyssa Hartley, was one of two seniors on the team.
Hartley had an outstanding playoff run in center field and had several big hits.
Jordan Broome led off Buford's fifth with a single to left. She was erased on a fielder's choice by Catie Rowell. Next, Maddison Finley flied out to short, bringing up Hallman, who bats in the leadoff position. Hallman popped the ball in the air behind the plate.
It appeared to be caught, but was dropped. She took advantage and ripped a triple to right-center. Rowell scored on Hallman's hit and Buford went on to score four more runs, helped by a Lindsay Pressley double and Carley Bailey's RBI single.
Broome led off again in the sixth and doubled. Again with two outs, Buford scored. Hallman's single up the middle was misplayed for an error that allowed Broome to reach the plate.
In the opener, the fifth inning was also the decider for the Lady Yellow Jackets. Already leading 1-0 on a run produced by an Indian Land error in the second, the Lady Yellow Jackets added four more. The inning also produced back-to-back plays by the Lady Warriors that resulted in outs at the plate. Both were relay throws from Hartley to shortstop Haley Vachon to Campbell at the plate. Campbell tagged out both runners, which prevented the inning from being a complete disaster.
Indian Land rallied in the bottom of the sixth with one out and appeared in position to make a run at Buford. Hartley led off with a single, followed by a base hit from Martin. Hartley scored on a fielder's choice by Campbell and Martin came to the plate on Paige Brugh's single. Alex Greenwalt also singled, but both runners were stranded when the inning ended on a fielder's choice.