Lexington softball regroups, tops Byrnes to earn spot in state championship series

Lexington softball found itself in a not-so-comfortable spot early Friday evening.

Having to win just once, the Wildcats dropped the first game of the Upper State championship to Byrnes, but that disappointment was short-lived.

Fast forward about three hours, and Lexington advanced to the state championship for the third time in six seasons with a 10-6 victory over the Rebels.

The Wildcats will host Summerville, a 2-0 winner over Berkeley, on Monday in the best-of-3 series for the Class 5A state championship.

“This team never gives up,” Lexington coach Laurie Epps said. “We have yet to roll over and just let a team walk over us. They have a lot of fight. I couldn’t be prouder of this group. They find a way and we’re playing for a state championship now.”

It was an all-around team effort in the second game. The Wildcats were limited to five hits in the first game, but things turned ariund in the second contest. Seven of the nine starters had at least one hit and seven of nine scored at least one run.

Epps thought that type of performance is what has solidified Lexington (20-8) all season long.

“These girls are hard workers and want to win,” she said. “They don’t care who is the one that does it as long as at the end of the night we get the W. Every night, it’s somebody different that steps up. They find a way to make it happen.”

The Wildcats were the visitors for the second contest and the key moment might have come in the second inning. The Rebels (29-5) jumped to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first and had all the momentum.

But a six-run second changed all of that.

It started with an RBI single by Gracie Scott. Addison Hoffner added an RBI two batters later. Maya Drennon laced a two-run single to give the Wildcats a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Sam Craig capped the outburst with a two-run single in an inning where Lexington sent 10 batters to the plate.

Scott, a senior who finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs, said that response was a big boost.

“It boosted our confidence a lot,” Scott said. “Obviously getting shut out 2-0 in the first game is a bummer but at the same time we knew we had the chance to do the impossible. Nobody thought we were going to be here, but we stood on business.”

Byrnes got two of those runs back with a two-run home run for Ellanie Yarrell, but that’s when pitcher Haley Manz took over. She limited the high-scoring Rebels to just two runs and four hits over the final five innings to improve her record to 17-4.

Manz took a hard line drive off the stomach but only allowed four earned runs on seven hits with two walks and no strikeouts.

“I can’t speak on how huge Haley’s been for us all season and especially in the playoffs,” Epps said. “I kept asking her if she wanted the ball and she kept saying yes. She got it. She’s been amazing for us here lately.”

Craig later added another RBI and a run scored on an error in the fourth and then Scott added a two-run single in the sixth to extend the lead to 10-5.

“This team never gives up,” Scott said. “We always find a way like Coach Epps has always said. I think having history with Byrnes gave us the extra push to continue to fight. We knew it wasn’t over. We pushed through and I’m proud of everybody.”

Game One

Byrnes 2, Lexington 0

W: Maddie Wiant. L: Haley Manz. Hitters: B – Kara Davis 3-3. L – Maggie Hinz 2-3; Maya Drennon 2-2.

Game Two

Lexington 10, Byrnes 6

W: Haley Manz. L: Maddie Wiant. Hitters: L – Sam Craig, 2-5, 3 RBI; Gracie Scott 2-3, 3 RBI; Maggie Hinz 3-4; Maya Drennon 2 RBI. B – Wiant 2-3, HR. Ellanie Yarrell HR.