The Laurel Bulldogs made sure Padua saw nothing but green on Friday.
Senior Logan Green shut down the Pandas for 5 1⁄3 innings. Then her sister, sophomore Regan Green, took the ball in a critical situation and struck out the last five batters as Laurel held on for a 1-0 victory in the semifinals of the DIAA Softball State Tournament at Milford High.
The second-seeded Bulldogs (19-2) will meet fourth-seeded Polytech in the championship game at 11 a.m. today, again at Milford. Sixth-seeded Padua finished its season at 17-4.
Laurel scratched out the game’s only run in the bottom of the first, as Cailey Isaacs walked, moved to second on Alexis Hudson’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Gabby Culver’s single up the middle.
The Bulldogs squandered Hudson’s one-out triple in the third, but it didn’t seem to matter with Logan Green holding the Pandas to one hit – a bunt single – through five innings. Then everything changed in the Padua sixth.
Ashley Barnett led off with an infield single, and Kierstin Fallers followed with a bunt single. Monica Twardowski lashed a single into center field, but Hudson gathered the ball and easily threw out Barnett at home plate.
“I was sending her to third after I saw the ball had dropped,” Pandas coach Peter Boyer said. “She just put her head down and just kept on going, thinking I was sending her home. It was just a baserunning error. … You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity, and I’ll never fault my girls for being aggressive.”
Still, the runners moved up to second and third on the throw home. That’s when Laurel coach Jodi Green decided to change pitchers.
“It was the sixth inning, and they had seen Logan quite a bit,” Jodi Green said. “She hadn’t done anything wrong, but we had two people on base and with the score 1-0. You can’t take any chances. It was a good time to see a fresh pitcher, a different look.”
Regan Green’s different look was pure heat, and she struck out the next two Pandas to preserve the lead. Then she struck out the side in the seventh to finish it off.
“I really wasn’t nervous,” Regan Green said. “I had a lot of pressure on me, but I tried not to think of it as two runners on base and they could win if they have a nice shot. I just tried to think of it as a new inning and a new batter.”
Today, Laurel will play for its first state championship in softball. The school has only three state titles in any sport – all in Division II football in 1986, 1987 and 1991. The Bulldogs beat Polytech 4-1 during the regular season on April 23.
The Green sisters are two of the seven current Laurel players who won a Senior League World Series championship two years ago. But Logan, who is headed to Jacksonville State (Ala.) next fall, and Regan, who has committed to play at Mississippi State, would love to bring a title to their high school.
“It would be amazing, because it’s never been done before,” Logan Green said. “… It’s like one more thing to check off. We’ve won World Series for Little League, we’re both going to college for softball. This is our last straw before I go to college.”