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The Clover High School girls softball team remained unbeaten in Region 3-AAAA entering this weeks play.
The Lady Blue Eagles nudged Rock Hill 2-1 last Friday, improving to 3-0 atop the standings in region play.
Pitching ace Elizabeth Edmunds ground ball sent teammate Blake Wallert across the plate with what proved to be the winning run in the top of the eighth inning. Wallert led off the inning with a solid double to left field and advanced to third when power-hitting Marisa Harkey lined out.
CHS head coach Shea Hall has repeatedly said the defending region champion Clover team would get every opponents best shot, and Fridays game was no exception.
The Lady Bearcats forced extra innings in the bottom of the seventh, scoring the tying run on a suicide squeeze. The Clover girls know a thing or two about winning close games as evidenced by a 4-3 win over visiting Northwestern earlier in the week.
Harkey, whose claim to fame occurred against Clinton last year when she belted two three-run homers deep and far over the left field fence in the same inning, stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth and drove the ball over the fence for a 3-2 Clover lead.
Later in the inning, Edmunds, a dangerous hitter when shes not toeing the mound, singled. Madison Tepfenhart lashed an RBI double, staking Clover to a 4-2 lead.
Northwestern added a run in the top of the seventh inning, but it wasnt enough as the CHS girls held on for another tight region win.
Hall lauded the players after the game for surviving another region nail-biter. It got close at the end but I was pleased with the win, she said.
Hall was pleased with another strong effort from sophomore righty Edmunds on the mound. Elizabeth pitched well, she said.
The CHS coach again addressed the issue of being the hunted instead of the hunter in region play. Ive told the players we are the defending region champions and teams will be coming after us, she said. We have to be ready to play and stay focused every game.
Hall noted that Northwestern had beaten Clover in a tournament game earlier in the season, but the Lady Blue Eagles won when it mattered most in region play.
The region is competitive, she added. If we arent ready to play when we take the field, well get beat.
So far, the Clover team is responding to adversity, she said.
Harkey was asked how she was able to generate so much power in the batters box. I was involved in swimming for several years, she said. I think swimming builds strength.
Harkey said bat speed is important. I hit home runs off fastballs for the most part, she explained. I might get lucky with an off-speed pitch.
Hall said Harkeys home run gave the CHS team much-needed momentum.
Marisa has the bat speed and the lower body strength to hit home runs, observed the coach. Shes fundamentally sound.
Edmunds, a sophomore whose maturity is beyond her years, feels good about the teams chances of completing another banner season. We have the players to defend our region championship, she said. We want to win the region and advance in the playoffs.
Said Edmunds, Rainy weather held us back for awhile, but were getting where need to be.
Tepfenhart, who is a rock behind the plate and has signed to play for Newberry College next season, has a good idea of what it will take for the Lady Blue Eagles to reach lofty goals.
The key to success is to meet our expectations in all phases of the game hitting, defense and pitching, she said. I am playing with confidence and feel good about the team.