USC commit no-hitter lifts Summerville softball past Lexington in title series opener

Lexington knew what it was facing in game one of the Class 5A softball state title series against defending champion Summerville.

The Green Wave had last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Ansley Bennett, in the circle. The South Carolina commit didn’t disappoint as the right-hander turned in a dominant performance with a no-hitter in the 4-0 victory over the Wildcats to take a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-three series.

Game two is scheduled for Thursday in Summerville. First pitch will be at 6 p.m.

“(Bennett) has been solid all year. She’s a gamer,” Summerville coach Heather Tucker said. “She likes coming out and performing on the big stage and she stepped up big time. She did a fantastic job. She was going pretty well tonight.”

It might have been better than well. Bennett struck out 13 and walked two, the only two baserunners Lexington (20-9) had all night. Those walks came with two outs in the fourth inning, but Bennett got out of it with a strikeout.

Bennett struck out the side in the seventh inning, the middle of the Wildcats order.

“We know Ansley’s very talented,” Lexington coach Laurie Epps said. “We knew that going into it, but we just didn’t make the adjustments we needed to make.”

Bennett is not expected to pitch at South Carolina, but she might be giving the Gamecocks staff something to think about. She only allowed one ball hit out of the infield Monday and twice struck out the side. She threw 84 pitches, 63 for strikes and only faced two batters over the minimum.

“It means a lot,” Bennett said of the no-hitter. “Our defense worked really hard, and our hitters were phenomenal getting runs in the first inning that helped me out a lot. Katie (Guilliam’s) home run really set the tone and momentum.”

Summerville (29-0) got all the runs they would need in the first batter of the game. Guilliam drilled a 2-2 pitch over the center field wall to stake the Green Wave to a 1-0 lead. Guilliam then led off the third inning with a triple and scored on an infield error by the Wildcats.

Melanie Edwards ended the scoring with a two-run home run in the fifth inning. The top three batters in the Green Wave lineup — Guilliam, Bennett and Edwards — combined for five of the six hits for Summerville.

“Katie started it off in the first inning and that was huge, then Melanie hit a big one and Ansley in the two-spot hit pretty well, too. The top three were excellent,” Tucker said. “It’s tough on the road in a difficult environment. We’ve played here before and they always have a great crowd and it’s loud. To be able to come on the road and win game one is definitely big.”

If there is a silver lining for Lexington, it was the performance of Naomi Little out of the bullpen. She pitched the final two innings and didn’t allow a hit with three strikeouts. She faced the top of the lineup in the seventh inning and retired them in order.

“We wanted to show them something different. Haley (Manz) threw a lot last week for us and we sort of gave her a break because we weren’t putting any runs on the board. We gave Naomi a shot to go out there and she did great. She did what she needed to do,” Epps said.

“It’s win or go home (on Thursday), and we don’t want to go home yet.”

W: Ansley Bennett. L: Haley Manz. Hitters: S – Katie Guilliam 2-4, HR, 3B; Melanie Edwards 2-4, HR.