Clover softball beat Boiling Springs 4-1 Monday night with a vastly changed starting lineup from the two teams’ first meeting this year in the the 2015 season opener.
The Bulldogs won the game played several months ago 3-2, but Clover took Monday night’s game in the 4A Upper State championship, handing Boiling Springs its first loss in over 20 contests and advancing to Friday’s Upper State final. The Bulldogs will face Northwestern in Wednesday’s elimination game; winner of that matchup meets the Blue Eagles Friday with Clover needing just a single win to reach the state finals.
“We’re in a good position but nothing’s done yet,” said Clover coach Shea Hall. “But I do think we’re playing some of our best ball at the right time and the girls are feeling it.”
The game was encased in a bubble of noise. A percussion group steadily drummed out beats beyond the left field fence, often matched by the Clover dugout with its own impromptu percussion instruments, while Boiling Springs parents and fans shook 20-ounce soft drink bottles filled with noise at every possible instance.
Cheering fans were added to the mix in the bottom of the fifth when Clover broke open a 1-1 tie with the deciding three runs. Boiling Springs pitcher McKenna Quinn struck out the first two batters in the frame, but the hosts rallied with two outs. Marisa Harkey and Shania Dominique singled and Missy Mavrogian - one of several starters that didn’t play in the earlier loss to Boiling Springs because she was still with the basketball team - brought in a run with a poked bloop over the first baseman’s head to make it 2-1.
“I saw it was an outside pitch and I knew I could take it to the right side. I just lifted it up,” said Mavrogian, showing the motion she made with her bat.
Clover’s winning pitcher Elizabeth Edmunds, who was stout on the mound allowing just three hits and none past the third inning, then delivered a two-run double to the foot of the left field wall, just in front of the percussion group.
"That was huge," said Hall. "I felt like we had not done a good job until that point of bunting people over, getting the lead runner out, and just things that I knew to beat that team were gonna have to be sharper. But I’m telling you, we’ve been pretty good as of late getting some big two-out hits. When you get those big hits you can overcome a lot of your little mistakes."
The fifth-inning spurt made it 4-1, all the offensive cushion that Edmunds and Clover would need. The senior pitcher got 12 of her 21 outs from ground balls and threw perfect fourth, fifth and seventh innings in a commanding performance.
“Elizabeth to hold them to one run? That’s a high-powered offense,” said Hall.
Like Hall, Boiling Springs coach Randy Piazza was left to rue missed opportunities. The Bulldogs had the bases loaded in the top of the second but Jordan Smith grounded out to end the inning. They got leadoff batter Myranda Dills to third in the third inning, but stranded her. That was the last hit of the game for the Bulldogs as Edmunds tightened her clamps on the visitors’ sticks.
“We left baserunners, didn’t come through with some hits,” said Piazza. “I think they came through with that string of hits right there.”
Neither coach left Clover’s field Monday night thinking anything was over. The Blue Eagles still need one more win before they can celebrate an Upper State championship, while Boiling Springs will need three, starting with its game Wednesday against Northwestern.
“I look to be back here,” said Piazza as he walked toward the visiting dugout.
WP- Elizabeth Edmunds; LP- McKenna Quinn.
Leading hitters: Clover- Shania Dominique 2-3; Missy Mavrogian 1-3, 2 RBI; Elizabeth Edmunds 1-3, 2 RBI, 2B; Katie Robinson 2-3. Boiling Springs- Myranda Dills 1-3; Webber Roberts 1-2.
Records: Clover 20-10; Boiling Springs 27-3.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T