Clover High School softball loses playoff nail-biter

genegraham@comporium.netMay 13, 2014 

— The Clover High School softball team suffered a gut-wrenching 6-5 loss to host Byrnes on Saturday.

The Blue Eagles were set rebound against Mauldin or Northwestern in a Tuesday night double-elimination Upper State playoff contest.

The Blue Eagles entered the bottom of the seventh-inning Saturday with a 5-0 lead, but the Lady Rebels took advantage of scoring opportunities to come from behind.

The Rebels’ Allison Neely’s bases-loaded opposite-field triple, spinning away from the left-fielder and rolling downhill to the fence, knotted the score at 5-all.

Lauren Duggar’s line-drive single off the glove of a Clover infielder brought home the winning run.

“We were the better team for six and a half innings,” said Clover head coach Shea Hall. “The game didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”

Hall gave credit to Byrnes for the rally. “They responded when they had to,” she said.

Hall praised the Lady Blue Eagles, however, for a bold effort on the road. “Our kids will continue to play hard,” she said. “There’s no quit in this group. We’re still in the mix.”

With the teams battling to a scoreless tie after two innings, the Blue Eagles seized control with a third inning that plated five runs.

Michelle Aragon got things started with a single to right field. Brittany Rhinehardt’s well-placed bunt then advanced Aragon to second.

With one out, Blake Wallert reached on a throwing error, sending Aragon across the plate with the first run.

Later that inning, Wallert scored when shortstop Marisa Harkey beat out an infield hit. After Harkey stole second, Shania Domingue hit a ground ball the shortstop couldn’t handle.

Clover pitcher Elizabeth Edmunds stepped to the plate to belt a three-run homer over the left-field fence, staking Clover to a 5-0 lead.

The Lady Rebels started their comeback in the bottom of the fourth when the first two batters singled.

But Harkey stepped on the second-base bag after fielding a ground ball and doubling up the runner at first. After receiving the throw from Harkey, freshman first-baseman Katie Robinson gunned down the runner at home, completing a rare triple play.

Clover’s defense reared its head again in the fifth inning when center-fielder Brittany Rhinehardt nailed a Byrnes runner at the plate, where twin sister Brooke Rhinehardt made the tag.

“We had two great throws to home plate to cut down the runners,” Brooke Rhinehardt said.

After losing to visiting Blythewood 10-3 earlier in the week, the Lady Blue Eagles fought back to win the second game 3-2 and remain in the Upper State playoff hunt.

A gritty effort by Edmunds on the mound and at the plate catapulted Clover to a dramatic win in game two. Having thrown more pitches than the opposing pitcher in the first game, Edmunds was more than Blythewood could handle.

Brittany Rhinehardt’s lead-off inside-the-park home run jump-started the Blue Eagles in the first inning.

With the score tied at one in the sixth inning, Edmunds’ run-scoring single pushed Clover ahead.

Blythewood answered in the bottom of the inning to knot the score at two.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh, Aragon scored the winning run on a wild pitch.

“Brittany’s inside-the-park homer gave the team a lift,” Hall said. “Elizabeth met the challenge on the mound, and our defense played better.

“Our kids responded after losing the first game.”

Clover’s Tuesday night Upper State showdown was played after the Enquirer-Herald deadline. A game summary with quotes will appear on next week’s sports page.

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