Lexington drops game 1 of Class 5A softball final
The Lexington High School softball team was six outs away from taking a 1-0 lead on the road Monday in the best-of-three state finals against J.F. Byrnes.
The Wildcats led as many as six runs and were seemingly in control of the contest.
Momentum rapidly shifted in the Bottom sixth. The Lady Rebels erupted for 10 unanswered runs, including 9 in the 6th inning, to take a stunning 12-8 victory over the Lady Wildcats.
Calee Smith’s grand slam off Hannah Kumiyama, who relieved Allie Light in the inning, capped the turnaround for J.F. Byrnes. Playing in its thirth straight state final, the Lady Rebels can clinch a third state title in six years Wednesay in Lexington.
“We’ve had some big innings this year against some teams, but not of that caliber,” J.F. Byrnes head coach Brandi Aiken said.
It was the first loss for Lexington since March 29. In that contest, the Lady Wildcats gave up a four-run lead for the second time this season to defending Class 5A champion White Knoll in losing 8-7.
Lexington rebounded to win 16 straight games and advance to the state final for the first time since 2001. Now, the Lady Wildcats must do the same starting Wednesday at home to keep its championship hopes alive.
“There’s a reason why they play three games,” Lexington head coach Laurie Epps said. “It’s a three-game series for a reason. We’ve got to bounce back and we’ve got to finish what we’ve start and I’m confident in what we have. We’ve got to come to play Wednesday and take it one piece at a time.”
Lexington jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. An RBI double by Jessica Senn extended the lead to 5-0 in the Top 3rd before J.F. Byrnes scored 2 in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single by Kasey Widmyer and fielding error at third base.
The Lady Wildcats quickly rebounded in the top fourth as Saige Stanley sent Widmyer’s 3-2 pitch over the leftfield fence to make it 6-2. Kumiyama added an RBI double and after Ashley Causey score on a wild pitch in the fifth, Lexington had a 8-3 advantage.
Widmyer started the comeback with an RBI double off Light to make it 8-4. Molly Mathis followed with a two-run double to cut the deficit to 8-6.
After an intentional walk to Kaylee Whitesides loaded the bases, a bunt single off Kumiyama in relief brought J.F. Byrnes to within 8-7.
Another infield error allowed the game-tying run to score for the Lady Rebels (28-3). This set things up for Smith to hit her first career home run which also served as the game-winner.
Lexington (24-4) threatened with two outs, but Whitesides got a strikeout in relief to end the game.
“Our kids always fight, so we always talk about playing to the last out,” Aiken said. “Obviously, against a team as good as (Lexington) with their pitching, I didn’t think we would battle back to go ahead. I just wanted them to put up a fight and stay in it because it’s just (Game) one in the series.”