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Berkeley Softball Off To 2-0 Start In 2021 Season With 18-6, 6-4 Wins Over Fort Dorchester, Third Game In Series Hosted By FD Friday

Berkeley Softball Off To 2-0 Start In 2021 Season With 18-6, 6-4 Wins Over Fort Dorchester, Third Game In Series Hosted By FD Friday  

By Billy G. Baker


Moncks Corner—After starting the 2020 softball season at 4-0; before the Pandemic shut down Berkeley’s goal of a AAAAA state title run, the Lady Stags have started the 2021 season with two non-region wins over Fort Dorchester 18-6, and 6-4 with a third game against the Patriots on Friday.

Berkeley has been without the tutelage of head coach and former South Carolina Gamecock slugger Kelly Dillon for all of the preseason, and the first three games of the season, due to a torn ACL, and other knee damage the coach sustained during a fund- raising physical activity event at the school in late 2020.  Coach Dillon will rejoin the team on March, 22.

Filling in for Coach Dillon has been long time assistant Jerry Crolley who told the HSSR after the game, “It feels good to be 2-0, especially with our head coach, and leader, out right now but we are looking forward to her return on Monday,” said Coach Crolley. “I have been involved as an assistant in the program for several years now and I coach a couple of the players in summer ball so we are very familiar with each other.

“We all miss Kelly but the players had an easy adjustment to my coaching style because I have been in the program with them,” said Coach Crolley. “Tonight, the home run by Riley Daniel was a huge offensive play for us and the great defensive play by Abby Prince in center field for a third out in the 6th inning probably saved two runs from scoring.

“In our opening game Monday night, we hit around .450 as a team and everyone in our line-up is contributing both at the plate and in the field,” said Coach Crolley. “We feel like we are 15 deep on our varsity team and 15 deep on our junior varsity team.  

“We lost only two seniors from last year, our second and third baseman, and I feel like Skylar Page and Hayden Richburg have stepped up to fill those spots nicely,” said Coach Crolley. “All our girls have been working hard and I feel like we are contenders in the Lower State and have a good chance for a deep run in the playoffs.”

The team’s two senior leaders are Gracie Prince (outstanding defensive catcher who had four pop-up outs in Wednesday’s game) who is headed to Charleston Southern and Jersey Silver, the shortstop, is headed to Presbyterian.  “We do not have captains but Gracie and Jersey are our two key senior leaders.

“First baseman Riley Daniel is committed to USC-Aiken while senior second baseman Hayden Richburg is headed to Concord College in West Virginia to play,” said Coach Crolley. “Skylar is also committed to PC along with Gracie DeCuir who is also committed to PC.

“We are going to continue to get better and we still have two right-handed pitchers and we might pitch them some this Friday night,” said Coach Crolley. “These girls play really tough and they are all dedicated to the sport. We have started off the season hitting the ball very well.”     

Fort Dorchester head coach Lindsay LaPrad is beginning her 6th season at the helm of the Lady Patriots. “I am very proud of the fact this team never gave up tonight and scored four runs in the 6th inning, after being down 5-0, and the team kept battling all game,” said Coach LaPrad.  “I am also very pleased with the improvement the team has made since our game on Monday night.”

Coach LaPrad said she has mixed feelings about the three- game series softball has gone to this season. “It is a lot harder pitching wise in softball because teams without a lot of pitching depth, the opposing teams have advantages facing the same pitcher all three games,” said Coach LaPrad. “The goal now is to try and develop two or three pitchers to go along with your number one.”

Coach LaPrad said she has six seniors starting along with one junior and two sophomores. “It was really weird coming out on Monday night thinking about it had been almost a full year to the day since we last played a regular season game,” said Coach LaPrad.  “We have a tough region with West Ashley, Summerville, and Ashley Ridge. (Stall dropped out this season.) I feel like any of the four teams could win region but we are going to be fighting hard to get that top spot.”

The team’s six seniors include Merryl Dolbeck who has been in the circle since the 8th grade along with shortstop Jewell Cooper, catcher Whitney Clevenger, first base/pitcher Abby Briganti, third baseman Arjay Bowman, and left fielder MaKenna Adkins. Coach LaPrad described Bowman as one of the best defensive third baseman “she has ever seen.”  Adkins has been a four- year starter in the outfield.        

This season AAAAA softball programs are following a scheduling pattern modeled after what varsity baseball programs are doing at larger schools. Each week Berkeley will play a three game Monday, Wednesday, Friday series with opponents. They played First Dorchester to start the regular season with a 18-6 win at the Fort on Monday night. The Fort then came to Berkley on Wednesday and the series will conclude with a third game at FD Friday night.  

On Wednesday night the Lady Stags pounded out 12 hits led by Gracie Decuir going 4-for-four and Riley Daniel hitting a towering home run over the right center field fence that brought in two runs in the 5th inning.  Every batter in the line-up for Berkeley got at least one hit.  They were Jersey Silver, Abby Prince, Gracie Prince, Hayden Richburg, Skylar Page, Hannah Haynes and Jaykala McKelvey.

The Lady Stags broke scoreless game open in the bottom of the second inning with a three- run outburst. Silver singled and made it all the way to third base on a throwing error on a deeply hit ground ball by the speedy DeCuir who ended up on second base.  Abby Prince then singled in DeCuir and Silver for the first two runs of the game and a double by Richburg brought in Prince to make it 3-0.

Berkeley pushed their lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the 5th. Gracie Prince reached on an infield single and then Daniel, batting in the 5- hole, hit her shot over the right center field fence to make it 5-0.

Fort Dorchester battled back in the top of the sixth chasing starting pitcher Abby Prince out of the circle after five straight hits produced three runs for the Lady Patriots. Whitney Clevenger started the rally with a one-out single to left and then Abby Briganti hit a two-run homer to cut the deficit to 5-2. Shortstop Aujay Bowman then doubled to left field and a single by Payton Brigman put runners on the corners with one-out. Makenna Adkins then singled in Bowman making the score 5-3.

DeCuir then relieved prince in the circle. FD senior pitcher Hannah Haines, a key player since the 8th grade on the FD varsity then drew a walk. Two batters later Madison Boyd singled in Brigman to cut the lead to 5-4 and FD had the bases loaded. Jewel Cooper then hit a low lined drive to shallow center field that looked like it might drop in and possibly score two runs. However, Abby Prince made a diving catch and caught the ball just above the ground for the third out of the inning.

Berkeley got an insurance run in the bottom of the 6th on a single by DeCuir who then stole second. Abby Prince then reached first on a throwing error that scored the speedy DeCuir from second base making the final score 6-4 with FD unable to score in the top of the 7th.

Prince picked up the win allowing 8 hits and four runs. Of her 42 pitches 35 were strikes. DeCuir picked up the save working 1.2 innings allowing one hit. Merryll Dolbeck worked all six innings in the circle for FD giving up 12 hits and striking out three batters.

In Monday’s game Berkeley pounded out 18 hits led by Silver and DeCuir’s three hits each. Silver had two RBI’s while DeCuir brought in four runs. Abby Prince, batting third in the line-up had two hits and three RBI’s. Gracie Prince had a home run and two RBI’s and Savannah Ballentine had two hits and three RBIs for the Lady Stags. Daniel had two hits while Richburg and Page contributed one hit each.

DeCuir was the winning pitcher Monday night allowing six hits. Abby Prince picked up a save in the game.

On Monday FD was led in the hit index by Cooper with three hits and three RBI’s while Briganti had two hits. Bowman, Brigman, Adkins, and Dolbeck all had singles in the game.  Dolbeck pitched 5.1 innings in the Monday game and took the loss.      

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