03/11/07 — SW softball team improves to 6-0

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SW softball team improves to 6-0

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 11, 2007 10:09 AM

DUDLEY -- Southern Wayne pitcher Lauren Darden felt the pressure when she yielded a two-out walk in the seventh inning.

The tension increased when perennial Class 2-A softball power South Lenoir loaded the bases on back-to-back infield errors.

"We have to get this batter," Darden said to herself.

She did.

The sophomore right-hander induced a game-ending ground ball and preserved the Saints' 2-0, non-conference victory over the Blue Devils on Friday afternoon. Southern Wayne continued its best start (6-0 overall) in the program's fast-pitch era.

South Lenoir departed 2-2 overall.

Darden (5-0) tossed her third shutout of the season and collected her fourth complete game in five mound appearances. The two-year varsity starter allowed just one hit and notched 11 strikeouts.

"I can't say enough about Lauren," said SW head coach Brad Matthews. "She just digs deep, is a competitor and just got it done."

The Blue Devils, who finished third in the state 2-A playoffs last season, loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning. Darden posted two consecutive strikeouts and catcher Lindsey Pearsall caught Louise Davis attempting to steal home to end the inning.

Darden walked South Lenoir's lead-off hitter to start the third inning. She retired the next three batters she faced and didn't allow another base runner -- a string of 14 consecutive outs -- until the seventh inning.

"We had runs on the board and I knew we had to keep the lead," said Darden. "All of my pitches were working tonight. There were a few times they got a little off.'

South Lenior stranded five of seven base runners in scoring position. Head coach Lisa Smith lamented her team's inability to consistently put the ball in play and make Southern Wayne work for the out.

Opponents are hitting a collective .092 (11-of-119) in 39 innings against Darden, who also lowered her earned run average to 0.36.

"She's a great pitcher," said Pearsall. "She moves the ball well and there's not much you can really say about it."

Pearsall belted a fourth-inning, solo home run to break a scoreless deadlock. The junior took a golf-like swing at Kayla Cole's first offering -- a low, inside pitch.

Cole stayed ahead in the count until she threw a high, outside fastball. Pearsall took a level cut and slapped the fastball over the right center-field fence. It was Pearsall's first home run of the season and second of her career.

"I knew I had two strikes and that I had to do something," said Pearsall. "It was a really hard pitch, good and I just swung to make contact."

Returning starters Brianna Lofton and Alyssa Bradshaw combined for the Saints' second run. Lofton ripped a one-out, two-strike single up the middle and later stole her ninth base of the season.

Bradshaw (2-for-3) stayed patient in the box and hit a hard grounder just past the outstretched glove of Blue Devil shortstop Sarah Pike. The speedy Lofton easily scored on the play.

"I told them before the game it was going to be a pitching duel," said Matthews. "That's what it basically came down to, but we just had the big hit."

But South Lenoir wasn't done.

Darden fanned the first two Blue Devils she faced in the nail-biting seventh inning. Three batters later, she needed to find a way to prevent Jasmine Jones from unloading a big hit.

"I was throwing different pitches ... anything to keep her off balance," said a grinning Darden, who averages nearly two strikeouts an inning. "I knew I had to bare down a throw a strike."

Jones swung and the high-chopping grounder landed in Darden's glove. She threw to first baseman Lynn Grantham, who tagged the bag and the Saints earned their second straight shutout in a 24-hour period.

"There was a lot of pressure, but the whole team stayed calm and came through," said Darden.

South Lenoir 000 000 0 -- 0 1 0

So. Wayne 000 110 x -- 2 6 2

Leading hitters -- S. Lenoir -- Sarah Pike 1-3. So. Wayne -- Alyssa Bradshaw 2-3, 2B, RBI; Lindsey Pearsall 1-3, HR, RBI; Brianna Lofton 1-3; Lynn Grantham 1-3; Haley Fail 1-2.

LOB -- S. Lenoir 7, So. Wayne 5. SB -- Lofton 2. CS -- Davis. SH -- Garner.


South Lenoir

K. Cole (L) 6 6 2 2 1 8

Southern Wayne

Darden (W, 5-0) 7 1 0 0 1 11

HBP -- Davis (by Darden).