It took a while for the West Lauderdale High School softball team to come to life. But, once the Lady Knights' bats awoke, they were almost impossible to stop.
West Lauderdale cruised to a two-game sweep over Florence Tuesday, beating the Eagles 12-0 in Game 1 before finishing them off 15-1 in Game 2.
“This time of year wins are wins, and we'll take it,” West Lauderdale head coach Carey Luke said.
After retiring the first three Eagles in the first inning of Game 1, West Lauderdale second baseman Mallory Vance laced a ball past third to start the bottom of the inning. The Lady Knights' speedster was cut down at second, however, as she tried to stretch the single into a double. The running miscue proved costly later in the inning when West Lauderdale stranded runners on first and third while failing to score.
“She's our fastest player no doubt,” Luke said of Vance. “She was running head down through the bag, and she was already way down the line. I still think it was close at second base, and she might have got in. We were just trying to be aggressive and get something started early."
The Knights started the bottom of the second inning with a leadoff single from Abbe Bates but again could not do anything with it as Florence retired the next three batters to end the inning.
“No doubt I was nervous,” Luke said. “Just because we were doing things we don't normally do. We weren't looking for a good pitch to hit. We acted like we didn't have any kind of plan at all.”
Those nerves were settled in the bottom of the third as Vance started West Lauderdale off with a one-out single. The Knights followed with five-straight hits including a two-run double from Bates to put them up 4-0. With runners on second and third and one out, Mallory Thompson drew a walk before Tami Keene drove in the Lady Knight's fifth run with a sacrifice fly to shallow center field. Rachel Sollie knocked in an RBI with a single the next at bat. Two batters later, a base-loaded error allowed two more runs to score. West Lauderdale then put together four-straight hits as the Lady Knights exploded for 12 runs in the inning. Overall, West Lauderdale tallied 11 hits in the inning. The outburst proved to be all the Lady Knight's needed to put Florence in an early 1-0 series hole as they induced the mercy rule in the fifth inning.
Game 2 was much of the same for the West Lauderdale as it stranded the bases loaded in the top of the first inning before leaving two more runners on base in the second. Just as it had in Game 1, the third inning proved to be the Lady Knight's best friend as Alexa Hogan knocked in Breanna Sharp from second to break a 0-0 tie. Bates drove in Ana Gilbert from third base the following at bat, and Thompson followed with a two-out RBI single to give West Lauderdale an early 3-0 lead.
The Lady Knights struck again in the top of the fourth as Gilbert knocked in two runs with a single to left. Up 5-1 heading into the top of the fifth, West Lauderdale exploded again. This time the Lady Knights scored 10 runs on seven hits including a two-run home run from Gilbert to bury the Eagles for good and once again force a mercy-rule victory.
“We scored in bunches,” Luke said. “But, I told them we are going to have to score every inning moving forward. We can't go two or three innings without doing anything and then try to get eight or nine an inning.”
Gilbert led the Lady Knights batting a combined six-for-seven in the series with a home run and five RBIs. Sharp also had a big day going four-for-five with five RBIs. West Lauderdale out hit Florence 27-9 in the series.
While the Lady Knights' put on an hitting clinic, their defense was equally impressive. Shortstop Morgan Mayatt and Vance proved to be a force up the middle turning two double plays on the day.
“Our middle has been great,” Luke said. “They worked hard at it, and we have two great athletes up the middle. We do a good job of turning double plays, and they got us out of some innings.”
West Lauderdale will play the winner of Lawrence County against Poplarville in Round 2 on Saturday.