CLINCHPORT - Lee softball coach Mike Twigg, who's taken teams to four of the last five regionals, can't resist being optimistic.
The Lady Generals (3-3) were hit by injuries at the outset of the season and have just one senior starting. Still, Twigg is bubbling with enthusiasm.
"We've made a lot of progress in the last two weeks,'' Twigg said Thursday after an 8-0 win over Rye Cove.
Freshman Bethany Rupert, who wasn't scheduled to be a starting pitcher until senior Danielle Shackelford suffered a tendon injury in her left thigh, fired a one-hitter at the Lady Eagles.
"We're impressed with Bethany,'' Twigg said. "If we keep hitting the ball behind her, we could be competitive.''
Meanwhile, Shackelford isn't sitting on the bench. She's patrolling the outfield and knocking the cover off the ball.
"Danielle is holding us together with her bat,'' Twigg said. "She was hitting over .500 before today.''
Shackelford, the cleanup batter, was one of five Lady Generals to record two hits.
What happens when Shackelford returns to her former pitching form?
"We'll see how things go,'' Twigg said. "It could work nice for doubleheaders.''
It's going to be difficult keeping Rupert off the mound.
She allowed Rye Cove (2-4) just two base runners, didn't walk a batter and struck out eight.
Shelli McDavid's sharp single to left-center field in the second inning was the lone hit given up by Rupert.
The only other Lady Eagle to reach base was of Rupert's own doing. Monica Kinsler lined a shot off Rupert's glove and she overthrew first baseman Rachel Wynn.
In one stretch, Rupert retired 14 batters in succession. After Kinsler got on base with the error, Rupert set down the next four batters in order.
"Brittany has a fast ball, a changeup and a couple of movement pitches,'' Twigg said. "We've been working with her and she's really improved.''
Lee broke on top 1-0 in the second inning. Chealsey Brock doubled, stole third and dashed home on a throwing error.
The second run, resulting from a bit of trickery, became the turning point. Lauren Hatfield belted a triple and scored when the Lady Generals perfectly executed a safety squeeze on Erika Quillen's bunt.
"We had Lauren move down the line and stop to see if Rye Cove would make the throw to first base or fake it,'' Twigg said. "That was a big run.''
This ignited a five-run uprising for Lee. In the same inning, Wynn, Kristi Cress and Shackelford added singles. Rye Cove kicked the ball around three times.
Losing pitcher Shasta Edwards, also a freshman, performed well enough to win but was hurt by seven errors.
Rye Cove coach Lisa McLain simply wrote it off as a bad day.
"We didn't make the routine plays,'' she said. "We've seen faster pitching - our hitting was just off today. We need to keep working on the fundamentals.''
comments powered by Disqus