LAURINBURG — The Lady Scots softball team lost a nail biter in their season opener to East Columbus on Thursday, 8-6. The two team exchange leads back and forth throughout the entire game as parents and fans watched bundled up under blankets and sweatshirts.
The 30-degree temperature drop made for a brisk first night on the diamond, but the Lady Scots didn’t seem to mind.
The bottom of the fifth inning saw the Lady Scots down by one run, 5-4 with the heart of the order up to bat. Lady Scots catcher Jenna Byrd hit a dinger down the third base line, it looked like an easy out but East Columbus’ short stop overthrew first base. As the throw sailed over first base Byrd scampered to second.
Lady Scots senior left fielder Maggie Laviner hit a ground ball to first, which resulted in the first out of the inning. Bree Steele, the Lady Scots first baseman, hit a ground ball to the short stop and again the throw was off target allowing Byrd to score from second to tie the game, 5-5.
McKenzie Wilkerson stepped into the batter’s box next for the Lady Scots and did like her teammates, hit the ball to the East Columbus’ short stop — for the third time in the inning the throw was off and the Lady Scots runners advanced.
With runners at second and third the Lady Scots center-fielder Kayla Walker hit a line drive to center field to score Laviner from third. Lady Scots short stop Macie Gibson hit a slap hit back to the pitcher and was quick enough to out run the throw.
Unfortunately, Wilkerson tried to sneak across home plate and got caught in a rundown at third. With two outs, the Lady Scots Katie Lighthall hit an infield ground ball and East Columbus threw the ball to third to get the force out.
In the circle for the Lady Scots was junior Sarah McCall in her first start of the season. McCall made quick work of the Lady Gators getting two ground-ball outs. East Columbus’ Lauren Smith hit a line drive to center, but the hit didn’t make a different as McCall struck out the final batter of the inning.
The Lady Scots were swinging the bats in the bottom of the sixth inning and making good contact but each hit found its way into the glove of an East Columbus defender. McCall started the inning with a hit right to the center fielder. The Lady Scots third-baseman Jordan Danford hit a single into left-center field to get her team on base.
Byrd was hit by a pitch and with two on and one out the Lady Scots were looking to extend their lead. Laviner battled during her trip to the plate but struck out on an eye-level strike three. East Columbus retired the side after Steele hit an infield ground ball to second and the Lady Gators stepped on the bag for the force out.
The top of the seventh inning is where everything went wrong for the Lady Scots. East Columbus got their lead-off hitter on base after a miscommunication between Laviner and Walker saw the ball drop in between them in center field.
Byrd got the first out of the inning on a pop-up foul before McCall walked East Columbus’ Arianna Daniels to put runners on first and second. Byrd picked off another batter for the second out of the inning on a pop-up behind home plate. With two outs McCall found herself ahead in the count 0-2 against East Columbus’ Lauren Smith.
Smith hit a ground ball to first and was called safe at first, which allowed her teammate to score from third. Lady Scots head coach Pat Williams asked to speak with the home-plate official about the call. To Williams, and the rest of the Scotland fans, it looked like the runner was out but the official didn’t overturn the call.
The game tied at 6-6 East Columbus’ Diamond Porter hit a double to left that scored two and gave the Lady Gators an 8-6 lead. The Lady Scots were able to get the final out of the inning by tagging Porter out at third.
The Lady Scots had one final at bat to make something happen and unfortunately their bats went cold. Wilkerson started the inning off with a tipped ball that stayed in fair territory and cost the Lady Scots an out. Walker then tomahawked a ball that was four-inches above her head into shallow right field.
East Columbus’ second baseman made the diving catch to get the second out of the inning. Gibson hit a slap hit to second and was again able to outrun the throw, but it wouldn’t matter as Lighthall connected with a pitch but it went right to the left fielder for the final out of the game.
The Lady Scots move to 0-1 on the season and East Columbus moves to 2-0. The Lady Scots are back in action on Monday, March 6 with a double header against South Columbus at home. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. The Lady Scots will then hit the road for a game at Cape Fear on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.