04/18/07 — Saints' Darden tosses shutout

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Saints' Darden tosses shutout

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on April 18, 2007 1:47 PM

DUDLEY -- Playing its first game in 12 days, Southern Wayne coach Brad Matthews was understandably concerned about his team's upcoming game.

Added to those concerns was the fact his Saints would be facing Wilson Beddingfield pitcher Ana Cooke, who has been carving up opponents all season.

Matthews worries only grew during the first inning after he watched his ace hurler Lauren Darden allow a hit and walk while trying to find her release point with her pitches.

Darden, however, and her fellow Saints would eventually shake off the rust and take down the Bruins 1-0 in Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference action on Tuesday night.

"We've had about a week and a half off and we hadn't done a whole lot, but the girls came out with some enthusiasm which I was tickled to death to see," said Matthews. "I was a little worried, but everyone needs a break once and a while. We came out and played hard and that's all I can ask from them."

Darden (13-2) put together another dominant performance -- following a little first inning trouble -- to outpitch Cooke and improve Southern Wayne to 16-2 (6-1 ECC).

The right-hander threw a complete-game shutout and struck out 10 while allowing just two hits and two walks.

"I think I pitched OK and we played really good defense," said Darden.

Cooke nearly matched Darden's line as she allowed only one unearned run on five hits while striking out four.

"Ana's a really good pitcher," said Matthews. "She made some good pitches, but we were able to muscle some of them through the infield. I think we're more selective at the plate at times and that helped us tonight against Ana."

After squandering runners on first and second with two outs to open the game, Beddingfield would find any other scoring chances virtually nonexistent against Darden.

The sophomore would face no more than four batters in five of her seven innings of work and didn't allow a runner to reach third base.

Just making contact against Darden's array of fastballs and changeups was virtually impossible for the Bruins as they would go down swinging on six of Darden's 10 punchouts.

Cooke was almost as good, but the difference was a muffed ground ball and some clutch two-out hits.

In the third inning, after the first two hitters had been retired, Cooke got ahead of Alyssa Bradshaw 0-2 before throwing three straight pitches out of the zone. Bradshaw then singled up the middle to start a rally.

An error by shortstop Kelly Minshaw allowed Lynn Grantham to reach and brought up Rachel Reynolds with two on. Reynolds connected on a 2-2 pitch and singled up the middle to drive home Bradshaw with what proved to be the winning run.

"That was big," said Matthews. "She didn't try to pull it, which she usually tries to do. She went right with the pitch, went right up the middle with it and it got through the infield."

Given a 1-0 lead, Darden wouldn't make her coach sweat until the top of the seventh.

After striking out Cooke on four pitches, an error by Bradshaw left the door open for the Bruins. Darden battled Tessa Elliott before striking her out after she had fouled off six pitches only to have a 10 pitch war with Brianna Speight -- who would eventually walk.

"I thought I was never going to get them out," said Darden. "It was kind of frustrating."

On this night, though, the frustration would be left on the Beddingfield hitters as Darden got T'Lissa Elliott to look terrible on two swings and misses before she grounded out to end the game.

The win keeps Southern Wayne in second place in the ECC, only one game in the loss column behind Charles B. Aycock.

"Lauren stepped up tonight," said Matthews. "She was throwing her fastball a little faster. She wanted it and you could tell she wanted it and that's what it takes from a pitcher."

Beddingfield 000 000 0 -- 0 2 1

So. Wayne 001 000 x -- 1 5 2

Leading hitters -- Beddingfield -- Kelly Minshew 1-3, Ana Cooke 1-3. Southern Wayne -- Brianna Lofton 2-3, 2B; Rachel Reynolds 1-3, RBI; Alyssa Bradshaw 1-3, R.

LOB -- Beddingfield 6, Southern Wayne 6. SB -- Baker, Lofton. CS -- Jones. S -- C. Elliott.



Cooke (L) 6 5 1 0 2 4

Southern Wayne

Darden (W, 13-2) 7 2 0 0 2 10