Lower State champs fall in game one of state championship series
By Chris Sokoloski
Waccamaw High’s softball team will try and keep its state championship hopes alive tonight after losing 3-2 to Crescent on Monday night.
Waccamaw fell behind early in Monday night’s game, giving up three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
“We got off to a slow start,” said Waccamaw coach Scott Streiffert. “Maybe we could have made the plays but didn’t. I thought we played outstanding. We’re on the road five hours away from home in front of the loudest crowd we’ve every played against.”
The Lady Warriors were held hitless until the fourth inning when Riley Morris got an infield single. McKenzie Lugin singled home Morris and Olivia Dunlap, who had walked, for Waccamaw’s only runs of the game.
After giving up three hits in the first inning, Lugin shut down the Lady Tigers the rest of the way, allowing only one more hit and striking out seven.
“Mac was amazing the rest of the way,” Streiffert said. “She was on, she was throwing well.”
It’s the third trip to the state championship series in the last five years for Waccamaw, who lost to Crescent in 2009 and then took the rematch in 2010.
A loss to Crescent in the state championship series was the 2010 team’s only defeat of the season.
Four members of this year’s squad – Morris, Lugin, Melaina Moore and Emily Heimberger – were on the team that won it all in 2010.
“This is a lot different team,” Streiffert said. “We had dominant pitching in 2009 and 10.”
Waccamaw pitchers struck out more than 500 batters both of those years. This year’s pitching staff is closing in on 150 strikeouts.
“We were very dependent on our pitching, and this year we have to hit,” Moore said. “It’s more intense, and it’s more fun.”
Tonight’s game begins at 6 p.m. at Warrior Field. It will be the first road playoff game for Crescent this season.
“I think out kids will come out with a lot confidence,” Streiffert said.
If Waccamaw wins, the deciding game will be played Friday at a neutral site.
Waccamaw got to the state championship series by beating Dillon in a winner-take-all game on Friday night. The Wildcats arrived in Pawleys Island needing to beat the Lady Warriors twice.
Dillon struck early in the first game, plating four runs in the top of the first inning.
Waccamaw came back with a run in the bottom of the first, and left runners on third base in the second and third innings, but the Lady Warriors’ offense never got on track.
Dillon added three runs on a two-out home run in the fifth inning, and closed out the scoring with another four runs in the top of the sixth, highlighted by another three-run home run.
“I thought our defense let us down … right out of the gate,” Streiffert said. “We made a couple mistakes in the first inning and we were never able to get the momentum.”
Heimberger, Hallie Butler and Olivia Dunlap picked up the only hits for Waccamaw.
Lugin took the loss.
In between games, Moore, a senior, gave the team a passionate speech.
“I just like to pump them up, to think, ‘we’ve got this’ and not get down on ourselves,” Moore said after the game. “We were very down and we just needed to get back up.”
After a 30-minute break, the Lady Warriors’ energy and enthusiasm seemed to return in game two.
Waccamaw got on the board first with three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Dillon got its first two runners on in the fifth inning, but Morris grabbed a ground ball, stepped on third base for the first out and fired to first to compete the double play. A popout to second base ended the inning.
The Wildcats bounced back to tie the game in the sixth inning with a two-out rally that including two home runs and a walk.
“You could just see their confidence raise when they tied the game,” Streiffert said. “But I knew we had last at-bat. I really felt like we were in trouble if we didn’t do it in the eighth inning, because they’re big people were coming up again.”
The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth. With Heimberger on second base, Moore got a two-out, two-strike single. The throw from the outfield beat Heimberger to the plate, but she executed a perfect hook slide and reached back to touch the plate before the Dillon catcher tagged her.
Streiffert called Heimberger’s slide “amazing.”
“The only kid on either team that probably would have been safe on that play,” he said.
Moore went 2-for-4 with an RBI; and Heimberger went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs.
Lugin got the win.
Waccamaw had to beat Dillon twice in the Lower State final in 2010 en route to its state championship.
“It’s just an awesome experience,” Heimberger said. “It’s fun being able to work as a team, and honestly, we’re all bonded really close together, so that makes it even more exciting.”
“We’ve really come together,” Lugin said. “It’s not just one person. Everyone picks each other up.”
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