HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The final score was not indicative of how close Friday’s opening game of the 4A lower state softball tournament was at Phyllis C. Griggs Park.
Hartsville faced Region 6-4A foe West Florence for third time this season, and for the third time, the Red Foxes walked away with the victory.
But the 10-0, 6-inning affair was predominantly a pitcher’s duel until the final at bat by HHS (22-3) as it plated nine runs to advance to Monday’s winner’s bracket game against South Florence.
“We need to see competition like this,” Hartsville coach Amber Harvey said of Friday’s contest. “We were (at) one run until the sixth inning, so we need to have that pressure to get ready for lower state.”
There was certainly pressure against the Knights. Harvey’s squad held a 1-0 advantage for most of the game as WFHS starter Annie Ruth Eliason and Red Fox ace Alyssa Poston were each dialed in on the mound.
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Poston wound up with the shutout – giving up just two hits while striking out 13 in the process. The HHS left-hander allowed four baserunners total, and only two made it past first base.
“I would say screwball and my outside curve,” Poston said when asked which pitches were working particularly well Friday. “Those two pitchers were good and my riseball.”
But Hartsville couldn’t get much going against Eliason, either. Poston had one of only two hits against the right-hander through the first five innings.
That proved to a big one, however, as her drive down the right field line wound up going to the fence as raced into third. Seconds later, she dashed home as the throw back to the infield got away momentarily.
“It felt good,” Poston said of the swing. “It was a first-pitch changeup, and I don’t really hit changeups, so it was a good feeling.”
That was it in terms of offense though as Hartsville managed just three other baserunners until the sixth inning.
“We struggled with (Eliason) in the beginning of the game,” Harvey said. “…But hitting’s contagious. When one person starts, good teams keep it up one after another.”
That held true in the fateful sixth inning. Olivia Martin led off with a walk for HHS and was sacrificed over to second by Poston. After another walk to Caydon Thompson, the floodgates seemed to open for the Red Foxes as Kindan Dawson, Avarie Easters, Sarah Watkins and Abbey Byrd all followed with hits as Hartsville upped its advantage to 5-0.
Three walks with bases loaded and a hit batter as well made the score 9-0. Easters ended the game with her second RBI single of the inning.
It was tough finish for what had been a very solid game for the Knights (17-9), who will travel to North Augusta on Monday.
“We didn’t hit the ball, and that’s what happens when you play great teams like this – Hartsville is a great team; always has been always will be,” West coach Aundres Perkins said. “We grew a little bit tonight and learned some things.
“Hopefully we’ll get another shot, but right now we’re just going to learn from this and try to move forward.”
Kaylee Windham and Summer Holland had the two basehits for the Knights.