BAILEY – The transformation is nearly completed, and Southern Nash looks almost nothing like it did just less than two months ago.
After starting the season with seven straight losses and eight defeats in its first nine games, Southern Nash is within reach of the Big East Conference regular season championship after a 7-3 victory Thursday against rival Nash Central at Southern Nash High School.
“It started off pretty bad,” shortstop Danyelle Noland said. “We had the talent to be the first-place team, but we weren’t showing it before conference started.”
The most recent victory started with a bang, and one that might have rattled the Firebirds earlier this season.
In the top of the first inning, Nash Central catcher Harley Winders hit a towering home run to left field that clanged off the top of the scoreboard.
Instead of crumbling, Southern Nash (7-10, 6-3 Big East) rebounded.
“We knew we had to score anyway, and we were planning on scoring more than two,” said Noland, who went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.
Ladybirds pitcher Olivia Lamm rebounded from the first-inning blast and allowed just six base runners through the final six innings, taking advantage of eight one-pitch at-bats by the Bulldogs (8-8, 5-4).
“We weren’t very patient at the plate,” Nash Central coach Gary Smith said. “We’ve never been a first-pitching swinging team. For some reason (Thursday), we decided to be not patient and swing at the first pitch. ... It’s just not us.”
Southern Nash, which will complete a suspended game against Rocky Mount High on Monday, also followed through on Noland’s belief of putting up more than two runs.
After Noland scored in the bottom of the first inning, she helped lead off the Ladybirds’ big inning. The first five batters of the third inning reached base and the first four scored. Southern Nash added a run in each of the final two innings.
“Everyone has definitely stepped up and took their role and their place,” left fielder Madison Bell said. “We’re pulling together as a team.”
Noland and No. 2 batter Hannah Wood each beat out a infield hits and scored a combined four runs. The middle of the Firebirds lineup – from the No. 3 to No. 6 batters – drove in all seven runs.
Southern Nash now needs help from the Bulldogs, who will play first-place Wilson Hunt next week.
“When we started conference it was 1-8,” Noland said. “We just started clicking as a team, and we just started trusting each other. We had the talent there. We just started to put it all together.”
Southern Nash softball coach Christy Bailey-Reams doesn’t want any of the credit.
She knows it’s the Ladybirds who are within one game of the league title.
“They’re the ones that did it,” Bailey-Reams said. “We feel we’ve guided them, but ... I’d like for them to have the glory. I want them to be in the spotlight.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org