SPRING GARDEN – Trailing by a run in the top of the sixth inning Tuesday against Hokes Bluff in the Spring Garden Softball Spring Swing Tournament, the Lady Panthers didn’t lie down.
Spring Garden finally began to chip away at Lady Eagle pitcher Kileigh Blackwell in the top of the sixth inning, when the Lady Panthers scored three runs. They added two more in the seventh to take a 5-1 victory.
In the sixth, Spring Garden shortstop Neely Welsh reached on an error at short, then second baseman got on with a bunt single. With one out, designated hitter Kylie-Grace Wood slapped a single right to tie the game at a run apiece. Left fielder Abbie Woods then bunted for a single to score another run. Nine-hole hitter Maggie Jarrett grounded out to short to score the final run of the inning.
Third baseman Kayley Kirk connected on a single to left to lead off the seventh, and pitcher Abbey Steward delivered an infield single. Both of their runs scored on a double by Neely Welsh and a single by second baseman Ace Austin respectively to push the Lady Panther lead to 5-1.
Abbey Steward slammed the door by retiring the Hokes Bluff side in order for the final. She picked up the win for Spring Garden (11-4) after allowing just two hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
“I’m proud of the way they didn’t just lay down,” Spring Garden coach Ann Welsh said. “Nothing was working and we could’ve laid down and lost 1-0, but I was proud of the fact they battled back.
“Abbey did a good job pitching. She had good control of the game. They got a few hits early. The run they scored on was an error (in center field in the bottom of the second). Hat’s off to her. She kept working hard.”
Something else Coach Welsh was proud of was her team’s bunting.
“The bunting kind of led us the other day at (the) county (tournament), so we worked on it for a couple of days,” she said. “I was proud of Abbey and Ace right there coming up with two key bunts. We got some speed on the bases, and I was proud of Kylie-Grace. That (hit) moved the runners and got them to where we could score.”
Austin had a pair of hits and a walk for Spring Garden. Avery Steward also had a pair of hits. Eight of the nine batters in the Lady Panther lineup each contributed a hit, and Jarrett drove in a run.
Designated hitter Gracie Blair drove in the Lady Eagles’ lone run in the bottom of the second. Shortstop Madison Wolfe reached on an error in center and scored on Blair’s single to center.
Blackwell suffered the loss for Hokes Bluff.
Spring Garden finished the two-day tournament at 4-0.
“I think this has benefited our whole team,” Coach Welsh said. “There were a lot of different situations where we got a lot of people in. I talk to our subs a lot about how important they are as runners. We’re going to get into some situations where they’re our speed and they’ve got to be smart. They’ve got to know the game situation and what’s going on, and our pitchers got to have some experience.
“Avery and Kylie-Grace have done exceptionally well in games that were going their way. We’ve had a few they’ve had to struggle through. Both of those situations are great for them.”
Spring Garden 15, Gaston 0 (3 innings)
SPRING GARDEN – Eighth grade pitcher Avery Steward tossed a no-hitter through three innings, and she got plenty of run support from her Lady Panther teammates. They scored six runs in the bottom of the first and nine more in the bottom of the second for the 15-0 final in Spring Garden’s first game on Tuesday.
“We’ve been trying to work her (Avery Steward) in some. I felt like that was a game she could throw and get our defense behind her,” Coach Welsh said. “We definitely got some hits to kind of take the pressure off her a little bit and make her feel more comfortable.”
Neely Welsh led the Lady Panthers with a two-run homer to left center in the second and a run-scoring double to left in the first. Kylie-Grace Wood had a two-run double in the first and an infield single in the second. Abbey Steward also had a pair of hits and drove in a run.
Abbie Woods doubled and drove in a pair of runs. Kayley Kirk singled and was hit by a pitch. Avery Steward had a bunt single in the second.
The only Gaston batter to reach base on Avery Steward was third baseman Charlotte Whitmore. She reached on an error to lead off the third.
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