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Ledford falls to Southwestern Randolph

WALLBURG | It’s hard to tell what kind of team Ledford softball coach Charlie Brown will end up with this early in the season. But, one thing’s for sure —they won’t be quitters.

On a night that saw temperatures dip into the 30s, the Panthers could have easily mailed it in after falling behind 6-1 in the second inning. But, behind the senior battery of Meg Everhart and Ashley Best, the Panthers hung around long enough to put the heat on visiting Southwest Randolph before dropping an 8-5 decision Friday night.

Ledford coach Charlie Brown was disappointed in his team’s execution, especially in the second inning where two walks, a hit batter and two errors combined with three hits to score six runs for the Cougars who moved to a perfect 3-0 in conference play, 7-2 on the season.

But, Brown was excited to see his team rebound from that disastrous half inning to make things interesting down to the last out.

“It’s hard to win when you make errors, you walk people and you leave a ton of runners on base,” Brown said.

“But, I’ve got to give it to these girls. I’ve got great senior leadership from my pitcher (Everhart) and catcher (Best) and they refused to quit. We kept swinging the bats and hit some balls really hard. I’m real proud of this team for fighting back,” added the Ledford coach.

The Panthers struck first in the bottom of the first when leadoff hitter Destiny DeBerry walked and stole second. With one out, Best, who finished the night 3-for-3, lined a 2-1 pitch into the gap in left-centerfield to score DeBerry from second and give Ledford a 1-0 lead.

But the lead would be short-lived.

Felicia Berry walked to lead off the second for the Cougars. Everhart then struck out the opposing pitcher, Bridgette Smith, before hitting left fielder Samantha Williams with a 1-0 fastball to put runners at first and second. Ledford shortstop Emily Boger couldn’t hang onto second baseman Mackenzie Cranford’s throw at second allowing Brady to score, knotting the game up at 1-1.

After Everhart struck out Hannah Richey, Southwest leadoff hitter Braden Newlin reached on an infield single, plating Williams. Center fielder Ashley Floyd worked another walk to load the bases for shortstop Hagan Kiser. Kiser, the No.3 hitter for Southwest, lined a single to give the visitors a 5-1 lead and she later scored on another Panther error to give Southwest a five run lead.

Everhart fanned Brady, who started the inning with a walk, to strike out the side but not before a ton of damage had been inflicted.

Still up 6-1, Smith led off the top half of the third inning by working Everhart to a full-count, before blasting a 3-2 pitch just inside the foul pole down the left field line for a solo homer and a 7-1 Southwest advantage.

From there Everhart settled down and held the Cougars scoreless over the next three innings before they plated an unearned run in the top of the seventh.

Everhart, who took the loss on the mound, gave up eight runs (including five unearned) on nine hits while striking out four.

Down 7-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Reagan Bray reached on an error for Ledford before being thrown out on Mackenzie Cranford’s fielder’s choice to second base. Lilly Kernodle singled to left center to put runners on the corners for DeBerry, Ledford’s center fielder. DeBerry doubled off the base of the wall in right center just below the LHS logo to score Cranford and Kernodle and cut the Cougars’ lead to four.

In the bottom of the seventh, now trailing 8-3, Best led off the inning with her third hit of the night (to go along with a walk in her other plate appearance). Everhart, Ledford’s clean-up hitter, drove a double short of the fence in left field to put runners at second and third with no outs. Bayleigh Griffith then walked to load the bases for Ledford.

Bray grounded out to second base for the first out but scored Best from third base, trimming the Southwest lead to 8-4. With runners on second and third again for the Panthers, Cranford’s sacrifice scored pinch-runner Summer Mickey to make it an 8-5 ballgame. Kernodle lined a 1-2 pitch to Southwest third baseman Newlin who threw to first the end the rally and seal a crucial Mid-Piedmont 3A conference win for the Cougars who moved a game ahead of the Panthers in the conference standings.

In addition to Best’s 3-for-3 night, Everhart was 2-for-4 at the plate while DeBerry finished 1-for-3 with a walk, a double and two RBIs. Cranford went 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI while Jessie Hayworth, Erin Crotts and  Kernodle all singled for Ledford.

The Panthers, who fell to 4-3 on the season, dropped to 2-1 in conference play. Ledford travels to Trinity to take on unbeaten Wheatmore Saturday.