03/29/06 — Bruins hand Saints first conference loss

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Bruins hand Saints first conference loss

By Dan Friedell
Published in Sports on March 29, 2006 2:00 PM

DUDLEY -- Morgan Davis' voice sounds better coming out of the Southern Wayne softball dugout, cheering on her teammates, than it does coming out of the speakers mounted above the field.

But because of a broken right thumb -- she was hit by a pitch during a travel team tournament over the weekend -- Davis may be announcing the lineups for the next six weeks when the Saints are playing at home.

In her first game behind the microphone, she saw her team lose 4-1 to Wilson Beddingfield in game two of the Eastern Carolina Conference season. Both teams are now 1-1 in conference play, with Beddingfield at 9-1 overall and Southern Wayne at 7-5.

Davis, a freshman, is a key component of the Saints' lineup. She began the year as the starting third baseman and is the Saints' No. 2 pitcher.

"She's been playing a lot," said Southern Wayne coach Brad Matthews. "I still got players that can come in and produce. That ain't no excuse. If somebody drops out, we can put somebody right in."

Rachel Reynolds got the start at third base in Davis' absence and was 0-for-3 in a game that featured just four Saints hits, two coming in the bottom of the seventh with the score 4-0.

For the first four innings, which took fewer than 30 minutes, Southern Wayne's Lauren Darden and Beddingfield's Ana Cooke matched each other pitch-for-pitch. Darden allowed just two hits, while Cooke was one better, allowing a single to Lindsey Pearsall in the fourth.

Both coaches were impressed with the pitching from Darden, a freshman, and Cooke, a junior.

"She's phenomenal, freshman or not," said first-year Beddingfield coach Jeremy Horner. "She changes speeds well and hits the corners."

With no score in the bottom of the fourth, Southern Wayne mounted its first threat. Reynolds and Pearsall reached to start the inning, but Cooke recovered and got out of the inning without allowing a runner to reach third. She was backed up throughout the game by junior shortstop Kelly Minshew, who ranged to her right to make an unassisted force out at third base for the first out in the fourth.

Though she made an inconsequential error late in the game, Minshew displayed high-quality defensive skills. She made plays to her left and right and twice made hard, accurate throws across the diamond to retire Brianna Lofton, Southern Wayne's fastest runner.

"She's really good," Cooke said. "I'm very comfortable (with her behind me)."

The game changed in the top of the fifth when Darden began to get behind batters and was forced to throw pitches that caught too much of the plate. Her defense also began to sag, as the Saints made one costly error in each of the last three innings, during which the Bruins scored four times.

Cooke drove in the game's first run with a single up the middle and Ashley Bohne followed with a single into right that made it 2-0. The Bruins benefited from errors in both the sixth and the seventh to double their lead.

Back-to-back singles by Darden and Meredith Davis surprised Cooke in the bottom of the seventh, with pinch-runner Taylor Reaves going from first-to-third on Davis' single. But Cooke struck out pinch-hitter Beth Brown, gave up a run on Lofton's groundout to first and breathed a sigh of relief as second baseman Bohne snagged Alyssa Bradshaw's hard liner to end the game.

Matthews was disappointed that his team didn't start to hit until the final frame.

"We kind of wait till the last inning," he said. "We sit around and see what the score's gonna be and then we try to pick it up at the end of the ballgame. You've got to start from the first pitch and go to the last pitch."

With Morgan Davis out, Pearsall, the catcher, may be forced to throw some innings, and Darden, who has pitched almost every inning this season, will have to fight through the good games and the bad.

"She's only a freshman, she's got a ways to go," Matthews said. "But she's tough."

Beddingfield 421 001 0 -- 4 9 2

Southern Wayne 000 000 1 -- 1 4 3

Leading hitters -- Beddingfield -- Ana Cooke 2-4, RBI, run; Ashley Bohne 1-3, RBI, sac bunt; Laci Greene 2-4, RBI, 2 2B. Southern Wayne -- Meredith Davis 2-3, 2B; Taylor Reaves run; Brianna Lofton RBI.



Ana Cooke (W) 7 4 1 1 1 6

Southern Wayne

Lauren Darden (L) 7 9 4 2 1 3