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Lexington “Long Ball’s” Byrnes With Three Homers in 6-5 Win To Earn AAAAA Softball Title

Lexington “Long Ball’s” Byrnes With Three Homers in 6-5 Win To Earn AAAAA Softball Title

By Chris Dearing

Special Writer

ROCK HILLLexington coach Laurie Epps has preached all season that there’s not an easy out in her starting lineup.

That proved to be true in the deciding game third game between the Wildcats and Byrnes for the Class AAAAA state championship Friday night at Northwestern. Hannah Kumiyama, Jessica Senn and Saige Stanley all hit home runs with Stanley’s solo blast in the fifth inning being the game-winner for the Wildcats in a hard-fought 6-5 win.

“We know Hannah is somebody everyone is going to key in on,” Epps said. “We have a lot of hitters. We have hard outs one thru nine in our lineup. I’ve said that before and that goes back to be a team. We don’t have someone in the spotlight, we do it as a team. That’s what makes this team special.”

It’s the first state championship for Lexington since they won back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001.

Lexington (26-4) lost the series opener at Byrnes (29-5) after blowing a huge early lead. They claimed a 5-1 victory on Wednesday to set the stage for the winner-take-all contest Friday.

Kumiyama started things with a two-run home run, her 17thth of the season, the second batter of the game. The South Carolina commit didn’t see another pitch the rest of the game as Byrnes elected to intentionally walk her the next three times up.

“I actually didn’t expect to get pitched to in my first at-bat,” Kumiyama said. “I knew my team would step up and they did. This is a great group of girls and I believe in all of them.”

Byrnes answered right back in the bottom half of the first. Hayden Bradley singled and scored on Kasey Widmyer’s single to second. McKenna Taylor later drove in a run with an RBI groundout.

The Rebels, who was playing in their fifth championship series in six seasons, added three runs in the second without hitting a ball out of the infield. Lexington committed three errors in the inning with Bradley driving in a run with an infield hit to make it 5-2 after two innings.

Lexington pitcher Allie Light seemed to get stronger from that point forward. The Arkansas commit threw 44 pitches in the first inning and finished at over 140 for the game but only allowed three hits after the first two innings. Byrnes let a solid scoring opportunity slip away in the sixth inning.

The first two runners reached but on a fly ball to Kumiyama in right field, she threw a bullet to third to double up the runner trying to advance on the play.

The Rebels then had runners at first and second when Alyssa McCraw couldn’t field it clean enough to make a play, but the runner tried to score from second. McCraw fired home and Sarah Gordon ran the runner down before she could get back to third.

“The first inning was tough, but I knew we couldn’t give up. This team has been resilient throughout the season being able to come back from adversity, just shul ax, make the plays and be us,” Light said. “It means the whole world to us to bring a state championship back to Lexington. We’ve been working so hard for this. I’m excited to go to school on Monday.”

Epps was never worried that the Wildcats and Light would find their groove.

“I knew that we would settle in and we would do our job,” Epps said. “Allie has been clutch for us all season and she’s a big-time player. They seem to show up in big games and she certainly did tonight.”

Senn started the comeback with a solo home run deep to right field in the third inning. Lexington tied it on a two-run double by Gordon in the fourth. Stanley then hit the game-winner in the fifth inning. It was a high, towering shot that just landed inside the foul pole, barely beyond the fence.

“I was waiting on her to give me a good pitch,” Stanley said. “She was pitching me outside and that’s not my kind of thing. She gave me a pitch right at my knees on the inside and I knew I had to take that pitch when I could. It kept going and going and I was very surprised it went out.”

Light retired the side in the seventh with the final out coming on a diving catch from Peri Rouillard in centerfield.

“A lot of times, we were overlooked,” Kumiyama said. “We’ve been calling ourselves the underdogs all season. We weren’t supposed to make it out of lower state so to be here and win for our school means so much.”

Byrnes head coach Brandi Aiken was proud of her team’s play all season.  "We're not a one-hit wonder," Aiken said. "One class doesn't define us. As much as it hurt to lose Hayden and Kasey, we'll go back to work in the next couple of weeks. We'll be back.

“Being here five out of the last six years, with different pitchers every time, different kids and the way my kids step up, that's what we're proud of. they want to continue their legacy,” said Coach Aiekn.  

WP: Allie Light. LP: Kasey Widmyer. Hitters: L - Jaci Fleming 2-3; Hannah Kumiyama 1-1, HR, 2 RBI; Sarah Gordon 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Jessica Senn 2-4, HR; Saige Stanley 1-3, HR. B – Hayden Bradley 2-4.  

 

 

 


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