CLOVER — The Byrnes Rebels avenged an earlier loss to Clover in the state 4A softball playoffs, prevailing 10-7 in Blue Eagle Country last week.
The Rebels assumed command in a productive first inning in the May 8 game, building a 5-0 lead. Lead off hitter Lauren Duggar got things started with an infield hit. Caroline Shinn reached on an error and Duggar crossed the plate moments later on a passed ball.
Parker Burch stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered a two-run single. Lauren Ward had a run-scoring single in the inning and the Rebels plated another run on a force-out.
Clover had a potential scoring threat in the bottom of the first inning, when Brittany Rhinehardt reached on a throwing error by the Byrnes shortstop. Brooke Rhinehardt followed with a single and later stole second, leaving runners at second and third.
After Blake Wallert was retired, power-hitter Marisa Harkey made solid contact, but right at the shortstop. Madison Tepfenhart was hit by a pitch, loading the bases.
But Byrnes hurler Bailey Pearson was able to pitch her way out of the jam.
Trailing 6-0 in the bottom of the third, the Blue Eagles got on the board when Brooke Rhinehardt tripled and later scored when the Byrnes pitcher was called for a balk.
Byrnes pushed the lead to 10-1 in the sixth inning, highlighted by Lauren Ward’s double and Duggar’s infield hit.
The Blue Eagle bats came alive in the sixth inning, starting with Tepfenhart’s single.
Emily Robinson followed with a single and Clover ace hurler Elizabeth Edmunds doubled home a run. After Katie Robinson was retired, senior mainstay Paige Wallert doubled home two runs.
Brooke Rhinehardt followed with an RBI-single. Tepfenhart’s sac fly accounted for the final run of the inning as the Blue Eagles sliced the lead to three at 10-7.
Wallert belted a two-out double in the bottom of the seventh but the Rebels held on, with Pearson picking up the win.
“You can’t spot a team like Byrnes that many runs,” said CHS head coach Shea Hall after the game. “We dug ourselves a hole and appeared to be out of sync in the early stages of the game.
“I am proud of our players the way they battled back.”
Though disappointed with the loss, Hall lauded the Blue Eagle players for a season to remember.
“We won the district for the first time instead of settling for division success,” she said. She noted the team beat defending state champions Hillcrest in the playoffs and Byrnes once.
The game drew a large crowd, including members of the Blue Eagle football team who lined up behind the outfield fence to cheer the Lady Blue Eagles the last two innings.
“We appreciate the support this season,” said Hall. “People are starting to pay attention to Clover softball.”
Hall thanked senior stalwarts Tepfenhart, Paige Wallert and Katie Lee. “They have laid the groundwork for future success.”
Tepfenhart, who is Newberry College-bound, and Wallert were dangerous hitters in the lineup all season, while Lee became a solid left-fielder for the Lady Blue Eagles.
“We pulled Madison and Paige up early and Katie came on late,” said Hall. “All three contributed to our program on and off the field. We are glad they were able to end their careers on a high note.”