WALTERBORO — Dominant pitching got Colleton Prep’s softball team into the state title series. Dominant pitching also brought War Hawks one step closer to winning it.
Colleton Prep capitalized on a four-hit, 11-strikeout pitching performance by senior Kendall Jumper to claim a 5-1 victory over Clarendon Hall in Game 1 of the SCISA Class A State Championship Series on Monday.
Colleton Prep (26-5), now the winner of 12 consecutive games dating back to March 28, will travel to Summerton to face the Saints again today at 6 p.m. in Game 2 of the best-of-three series. If necessary, a deciding third game will be held today at a neutral site.
CPA, making its fourth SCISA state championship appearance in five years and ninth in the last 12, has a chance to claim its fifth SCISA state title since 2002 if it can complete a two-game sweep today. Clarendon Hall, meanwhile, will repeat as the SCISA Class A state champion if it can rally to take two in a row.
Colleton Prep’s win Monday was its third of the season over Clarendon Hall, which it had previously defeated, 15-0 and 12-0, during SCISA Region 1-A competition in March and April.
Entering Monday’s game, superior pitching, again, had been the key ingredient in the Lady War Hawks’ recipe for success not only in its previous matchups with Clarendon Hall, but against all comers.
CPA’s pitching rotation, comprised of Jumper, Courtney Kramer and Jaime McLaine, had combined to throw three perfect games, five no-hitters and strike out 199 batters in 112 innings before Monday’s series opener.
So, leave it to the Saints, who had a mere two hits in their two previous meetings with CPA, to break up the War Hawks’ mammoth 64-inning scoreless streak in the top of the first inning Monday — a streak that dated back 47 days to a March 27 game against SCISA Class AA Thomas Heyward.
Clarendon Hall’s Brittany Bays was the one who did the deed with a one-out RBI triple to right field, scoring Kaitlyn Simpson from first to give her team a brief 1-0 lead, and send the visiting crowd into a frenzy.
Clarendon Hall’s glory would be short-lived, however. CPA would rally in the bottom of the inning, starting with leadoff batter Jaime McLaine, who steered a drag bunt into the hole between third base and shortstop for an infield single.
McLaine advanced all the way to the hot corner bag two pitches later when Clarendon Hall failed to cover third base while attempting to field a sacrifice bunt laid down by CPA’s Courtney Kramer.
Two batters later, Jumper reached up out of the strike zone to yank a shoulder-high off-speed pitch into left for an RBI single, scoring McLaine and tying the game at 1.
Jumper, who advanced to second on a base hit by Hannah Syfrett, scored what would prove to be the game-winning on an RBI single to left by Ashlyn Polk two at-bats after her own RBI hit, giving CPA a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first.
The War Hawks tacked on another pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Syfrett led off the frame by clobbering the first pitch she saw for a line-drive solo home run to straghtaway left field.
Polk followed Syfrett’s homer with a single, then took second base on a passed ball before reaching third on a sacrifice bunt by Madeline Hill with one out.
Haley Pye, a JV call-up who replaced injured second baseman Taylor Hoff in late April, picked up an RBI when she hit a sacrifice fly to right in CPA’s next at-bat, allowing Polk to score from third and extend Colleton Prep’s lead to 4-1.
Those two runs in the fourth came after CPA head coach Mallory Crawford, who played on CPA’s 2002 and 2004 state championship teams, instructed her players to move further back in the batters box in response to a strategy move by coach Jeffrey Bays.
“(Bays) really did his homework, and he had his pitcher (Gracyn Royce) jamming our girls on every pitch — inside, inside, inside,” Crawford said. “Also, he had their entire outfield shifted left. He was trying to make us hit the ball to where he wanted us.
“So, I just had the girls back up in the batters’ box. That took away that inside corner from (Royce), and allowed our girls to get their hands extended a little more to start hitting some more line drives and ground balls, which is what we needed.”
Bays said the decision to play a shift on defense and try jamming CPA’s hitters was the result of learning from mistakes.
“We’d seen them twice this year already, and we knew if we came at them again with the same game plan we had in our first two meetings, it wasn’t going to work,” Bays said. “So, we shifted our defense around and tried to put our girls where we knew they usually hit the ball. They just eat the gaps up.
“They were able to get some hits as the game went on, and got that big home run there in the fourth, but for the most part it worked pretty well. Even some of the ones they really smoked, they didn’t get more than a double out of it.”
The War Hawks added another insurance run in the fifth inning. Kramer led off with a single to left, then reached third on a double to right center by Laura Reynolds. Jumper drove in Kramer on an RBI fielder’s choice in CPA’s next at-bat to account for the 5-1 final.
The Saints would get runners to first and third with one out in the top of the seventh, but Jumper struck out Holly Carlisle for out No. 2, and Reynolds, CPA’s catcher, picked off Clarendon Hall’s Kaela Phillips at first base for the final out of the game, ending the threat.
Polk led CPA at the plate, going 3 for 3 with three singles, a run scored, an RBI and a stolen base. Syfrett, Reynolds and Kramer each had two hits.
Clarendon Hall 100 000 0—1 4 1
Colleton Prep 200 210 x — 5 11 2
WP: Jumper. LP: Royce.