PIKEVILLE – Against a powerful Pikeville Aycock team, Southern Nash needed a number of things to go in its favor.
Almost none of them did.
The Ladybirds couldn’t stay with the pace set by the Golden Falcons, their No. 1 pitcher went down with an early injury and their season ended quickly and efficiently Tuesday in the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs. Aycock beat Southern Nash, 11-1, in five innings at Aycock High School.
“It’s not that we had to be perfect, but we had to have our game on,” Southern Nash coach Christy Bailey-Reams said. “We needed to have our hits together, and what fundamental errors we made in the field, they took advantage of.”
Southern Nash (11-12) fell behind quickly against Aycock (18-2). A would-have-been RBI double in the first inning went inches foul for the Ladybirds, who came away with nothing. The Falcons put five runners on base in their half and plated three of them for a 3-0 lead after one inning.
The Ladybirds’ chances dwindled in the second when starter Olivia Lamm was hit by a pitch in the act of swinging. The ball struck Lamm on the thumb and index finger of her pitching hand and went into the field for an out.
Worse, Lamm knew right away her day was done on the mound.
“My hands were too high on the bat, and I just swung at it,” she said. “After I got done swinging, I could feel it sting. That’s why I dropped the bat right away. I knew they were probably going to get me out right away, and I didn’t even run because I was focused on my hand.”
Lamm had a makeshift splint put on her swollen hand and stayed in the game, though she moved to first base. With much of the Ladybirds’ strategy based upon Lamm’s ability to throw offspeed pitches, they had to adjust quickly.
“It just changed everything a little bit to ‘What do we do now?’” Bailey-Reams said.
Amanda Wood came in the game and gave Southern Nash an instant boost, sending the Falcons down in order in the bottom of the second. Southern Nash further added to its hopes with a run in the third to make the score 3-1.
With little room for mistakes, though, it went sour in the bottom half of the third for the Ladybirds. Two errors led to three runs, and a misplayed ball dropped for a hit. Those were three outs Southern Nash couldn’t afford to waste.
Aycock racked up seven baserunners and six runs by the time the inning was finished and led, 9-1.
The Falcons finished 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position and knocked in nine runs.
“Our philosophy is, most of the time when you score more runs than somebody else, you win,” Aycock coach Emily Burke said with a laugh. “If you’ve got somebody in scoring position, it’s for a reason, and that’s to get home.”
Southern Nash, which once was 1-10, completed a huge turnaround for its best season since 2011.
Even though it ended prematurely, the Ladybirds were happy with what they did in 2014.
“I think everybody was surprised we came this far, but we knew we had a good team and we just had to turn it around and come together,” Lamm said. “It’s bittersweet because all of us wanted to go to another round of the playoffs, but then, we came this far.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org