BAILEY – To call Southern Nash’s path unconventional would be a gross understatement, but the Ladybirds are where they hoped to be nonetheless.
In another – and perhaps fitting – twist, a pair of freshman led the way in the biggest game of the season so far. Southern Nash used several key hits and a dominant pitching performance from Olivia Lamm to beat West Carteret, 6-1, in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs Saturday at Southern Nash High School, clinching a spot among the final 16 teams in the bracket.
“It has been a very, very, very weird year for us,” Southern Nash coach Christy Bailey-Reams said. “The girls peaked and came around at the right time, and that’s the second half of the season. And that’s where you gotta go.”
Southern Nash (11-11) began the season 1-10 but has rattled off wins in 10 of 11 to put itself in the third round of the playoffs.
Lamm was superb Saturday, keeping West Carteret (13-8) off balance for the duration of the game. Lamm struck out 10 and escaped the fourth inning, her only bout with significant trouble, relatively unscathed. She allowed two hits and one unearned run in the inning but left the bases loaded and preserved the Ladybirds’ lead.
West Carteret didn’t record another hit in the final three innings.
“The pitcher they had out there, we just couldn’t slow down enough for her,” West Carteret coach Randy Taylor said. “That’s not a knock against her, because obviously she’s winning. It’s just tough when you face the competition (we’ve) been facing.”
It was a familiar scene for an opposing team unfamiliar with Lamm. The freshman isn’t blowing anyone away with speed, but good location, a mix of speeds and an ever-changing eye level.
“If you can throw 90 miles an hour, that’s great, but if you can’t hit your spots and move it, it’s not doing you any good,” Bailey-Reams said. “So, I mean, I’d rather have someone throw off-speed. And when they do hit it, you have the defense behind her, picking it up.”
Fellow freshman Kayla Moore was the Ladybirds’ driving force at the plate. All four of her at-bats came with runners in scoring position and she came through with hits in three of them, an RBI each time.
Her RBI in the third inning proved to be the winning run, and her single to center in the fifth gave Southern Nash extra room.
“I felt like I had to hit them because I felt like it was a tight game,” Moore said. “When I have more pressure, it makes me feel like I do better.”
Along with second baseman Katie Hill, the Ladybirds’ trio of freshman has been indispensable, Bailey-Reams said.
“All three of them have been wonderful under pressure,” she said. “Underclassmen like that, most of the time, don’t do very good with pressure, but these three ladies are totally different.”
The Ladybirds will move on to play Pikeville Aycock, which has won both its playoffs games in mercy-rule blowouts. The game likely will be Tuesday night.
With the way Southern Nash has been playing, Bailey-Reams told her girls that they can play with anybody.
“...(A)s long as they keep playing and hitting the way they are, any team is beatable regardless,” she said. “As long as we come to play ball and stick together like they’ve been playing, they can beat any team, hands down.”
Southern Nash 6
West Carteret 1
WC 000 100 0 – 1 3 1
SN 102 120 x – 6 11 1
WP: Olivia Lamm (7IP, 1R, 0ER, 3H, 3BB, 10K); LP: Rachel Spencer (6IP, 6R, 5ER, 11H, 2BB, 3K).
2B: Tyreka Nicholson (SN); Amanda Wood (SN).
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com