There’s something to be said for being quietly confident. That’s the kind of personality that Laurel High’s softball team has displayed most of the season.
But Jodi Green, the Bulldogs’ coach, made sure she let her team know at practice that there also is something to be said for putting a little bit of fire inside their bellies in pursuit of the championship of the DIAA Softball State Tournament.
In return, Laurel came out crushing the ball and took advantage of several Red Lion Christian defensive miscues as it scored six runs in the first two innings. The Bulldogs took that momentum and went on to eliminate the Lions 9-3 in the quarterfinal round of the state tourney at Clifford F. Lee Memorial Park on Tuesday.
Green was quite pleased after a game in which second-seeded Laurel (18-2 overall) showed a little bit of a fiery personality in its sixth straight victory. The Bulldogs will play the winner of today’s game between Charter School of Wilmington and Padua in Friday’s semifinals at a site to be determined.
“The girls have the ability, but they’ve always been very calm,” Green said. “That’s one of the things we’ve tried to work on. [Monday at practice] we talked about how they needed to come out here fired up, and they did.”
10th-seeded Red Lion (10-9) suffered several defensive lapses that it was unable to overcome.
The early deficit was a tough task for the Lions to crawl out of against Laurel right-hander Regan Green, who struck out 13 in a six-hitter. It was only the second time that Green has pitched a full seven innings this season, as she normally splits games with her older sister, Logan.
“You have to have more stamina to be able to complete all seven innings because it actually does take a lot of energy to finish all seven,” Green said. “You really have to push during the last few innings because you get tired and you start to wear down, but you just have to dig deep and push hard.”
For Red Lion, its difficulties took place in the early innings.
“We got behind the eight ball early,” Red Lion coach Lee Geissler said. “Our defense has been a bit of our Achilles’ heel, and it showed up a little bit at the beginning [Tuesday].
“We hit the ball pretty well and we’re pretty potent offensively, so we don’t get as discouraged as a lot of other teams might have in that situation, but Regan [Green] is such a great pitcher. It was an uphill challenge.”
Alexis Hudson and Gabby Culver both went 2 for 4 and knocked in a run and Alyssa Givens had a pair of hits and scored two runs for the Bulldogs, who banged out 10 hits off the Lions’ Shannon Brantley.
Laurel took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning when Hudson hit into a fielder’s choice in which the Lions were able to gun down Cailey Isaacs at home plate.
However, the throw to try to get Hudson at second base went all the way into the outfield, and she was able to round the bases and score the first run. Culver then singled and eventually scored on an error by the third baseman as the Bulldogs went up 2-0.
Laurel extended its lead to 6-0 in the second, which turned out to be plenty of runs for Green. Whitney Toadvine knocked in Givens with an infield single to the backhand side of Brantley’s glove before Isaacs ripped a hot shot that the third baseman couldn’t hang on to as Kourtney Lee scored to make it 4-0.
Hudson knocked in Toadvine with an infield single and Culver drove in Isaacs with a fielder’s choice grounder to second base that made it 6-0. The Bulldogs took advantage of two more errors and tacked on three more runs in the fifth to go up 9-0.
From there, Green worked her magic in the pitcher’s circle. She retired 10 batters in a row before Red Lion struck for a pair of runs in the sixth and added another in the seventh.
“I kept it away from most of them and I tried to work my spin a lot because my speed wasn’t all the way there in this game,” Green said. “I just tried to go after each batter themselves and not worry about anybody else in the game.”
Red Lion’s Kaylee Hazewski knocked in two runs with a single in the sixth, and Brantley brought home another run with a single in the seventh.
“We had a great season, and we had a great run,” said Geissler, whose team defeated Delmar 9-7 in the tourney’s opening round. “I think this is the best we’ve ever done as a school, and the whole team’s coming back next year, plus we have some new kids coming in next year.”
As for Regan Green, she’s hoping that the enthusiasm returns for her and her teammates in Friday’s semifinals.
“We were all very excited for this game, and this is the farthest we’ve been [in the tournament] since I can remember,” Green said. “It’s just so exciting. We all wanted this as a team and were all so ready for this game.”