BAILEY – Facing a team with just one regular-season victory in the first round of the playoffs has its own set of challenges.
Underestimation and overconfidence are just two that come to mind with the actual opponent being the least of a team’s worries. Southern Nash coach Christy Bailey-Reams tried to keep the Ladybirds sharp despite South Brunswick’s in-season record coming into the first round of the NCHSAA 3-A state softball playoffs on Tuesday.
The task of focus, which likely was made easier by the way the Ladybirds started the season, was accomplished, and Southern Nash can now look to the second round after an 8-0 victory at Southern Nash High School.
“We couldn’t come in overconfident,” shortstop Danyelle Noland said. “... We had to come in and go ahead and take care of this game. We couldn’t look forward to the next round. We had to take care of this one first.”
South Brunswick (1-17), which entered the playoffs from a split 3-A/4-A conference, was outplayed early by the top-seeded Ladybirds, who won the Big East Conference’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs three days earlier.
Southern Nash (10-11) scored five runs in the first three innings, including a big second inning during which five of the first six batters reached base.
“It’s not how we start, it’s how we finished,” Bailey-Reams said. “The beginning of the season was rocky, but they’ve come together. They’ve gelled. They’re solid, and they have to stay solid. (Tuesday) being the first round of the playoffs, and by them playing this way, it kind of sets the tone for where they need to be.”
Southern Nash added three more runs in the sixth and received a stellar outing from pitcher Olivia Lamm, who scattered five hits and never allowed more than two base runners in an inning.
The Ladybirds had put together a winning streak after starting the season with six straight losses. They are closer to .500 than they’ve been all year.
However, they had a season-altering loss just last week – something that Bailey-Reams and Noland think will be good.
Southern Nash lost in the Big East Conference Tournament semifinals, ending the team’s winning streak but ultimately not costing the team the conference’s top seed in the playoffs.
“It leveled us off,” Noland said. “It’s harder to keep a winning streak going than it is to start over again. There was pressure. ... I think that kind of made it easier for us to keep it going.”
Southern Nash will play host to a second-round game Saturday against either West Carteret or Cameron Union Pines.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org