The Daniel Lions scored four runs in the first inning and would never relinquish the lead on the way to their second consecutive Class AAA Upper State Championship.
The Lions defeated Union County 5-3 Thursday night at Glenda Stone Field at Nettles Park after a big first inning and 16 strikeouts from pitcher Carley Hoover.
After a tumultuous week in the playoffs, Daniel head coach Kate Floyd said this championship feels even better than the last.
“It feels great. Something about this one feels better than the last one because it took so much to get here,” Floyd said. “Two back-to-back is pretty amazing. I don’t know if you remember, but I said at the beginning that as long as we get a shot at the playoffs, our number one goal is still in sight. Having Seneca and these teams in our regions prepared us for today.”
Union County scored one run in the top of the first inning when Peyton Martin worked a leadoff walk and was driven in two batters later on a double by CeCe Morman.
Hoover earned a leadoff walk for the Lions and Jenna Carnes singled to right to put two on with no one out. Dakota Crane stepped to the plate and promptly hit a bases-clearing single that rolled to the right field wall. With one out, Anna Lightsey singled, scoring Crane. Rebekah Scott also got in on the action with a two-out single to center that would put Daniel up 4-1.
Union County would threaten in the third scoring two runs on two walks and two errors by the Lions, but the margin was too much for the Yellow Jackets to overcome.
Back-to-back singles by Crane and Ashton Martin scored Hoover again in the fourth inning after she worked a one out walk for the final run of the game.
Hoover, a senior, is ready to take the final step toward a state championship.
“Since I started playing for Coach Floyd in the seventh grade on varsity, we’ve made it one step farther in playoffs,” Hoover said. “Last year we were state runner-up. We can only go up and I think this year is our year.”
Daniel will host Darlington Friday evening at 6 p.m. at Nettles Park.