LaGrange set for game three
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a one-game season.
The LaGrange High and Denmark softball teams split a doubleheader on Tuesday, setting up a winner-take-all game on Wednesday in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The winner of Wednesday’s game, which begins at 5:30 p.m., advances to the round of 16, while the season will be over for the losing team.
LaGrange won game one 7-0, with Camden Smith pitching a complete-game shutout while also hitting a solo home run.
In game two, Denmark got a three-run home run in the first inning from Kayla Smith, and it went on to claim a 4-2 victory to even the series at one win apiece.
Both teams will return to the field on Wednesday hoping to extend the season for at least one more week.
“You see disappointment, but you don’t see a quitting mentality,” LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath said. “They’re like, OK, we’ll come back tomorrow to play.”
For Denmark, getting a win in the state playoffs is the continuation of a turnaround season for the second-year program.
Denmark is led by David Smart, the former baseball coach at LaGrange High.
“Our goal this year was to get in (the playoffs),” Smart said. “We won three games last year, and this makes 19 for us this year. I’m just real proud of them. I’m proud we got in, and I’m proud of tonight. They’ll keep fighting.”
In Tuesday’s first game, Smith had everything working.
Smith, who has enjoyed a phenomenal junior season, held Denmark to three hits and no runs in seven innings, and she struck out 10 batters and only walked one.
Smith also got it done at the plate with two hits, including a mammoth home run in the bottom of the second inning that landed on top of the hitting facility beyond the scoreboard in left field
That home run gave LaGrange a 1-0 lead, and that’s the way it remained until the fifth inning when LaGrange tacked on three key insurance runs.
Kirsten Williams got things started with a one-out single, and Malone Aldridge reached on an error when her bunt was misplayed.
Next up was Abby Vanhoose, and she reached on an infield error, allowing Williams to come home with the key second run.
Jacee Marable then reached on another error and two more runs scored, giving LaGrange a 4-0 lead.
LaGrange padded its lead with three additional runs in the sixth inning.
Stone jump-started the rally with a one-out double, and two batters later, Williams legged out a bunt single, putting runners on first and third.
Malone Aldridge delivered a two-run double to make it a 6-0 game, and Vanhoose followed with an RBI double of her own to cap the scoring.
Smith, Vanhoose and Williams each had two hits for LaGrange, with Smith and Vanhoose driving in runs, and Aldridge had a hit and two RBIs.
Macee Stone got the start at pitcher for LaGrange in game two, and Kayla Smith’s three-run home run staked Denmark to the 3-0 lead.
Smith entered the game in the second inning, and as was the case in game one, she was dominant. Smith limited Denmark to one hit and one unearned run in five innings, and she had six strikeouts and no walks.
“She was on it today,” Heath said. “She pitched really well.”
Taylor Gajdik was the game two pitcher for Denmark, and she was outstanding, throwing a complete-game four-hitter.
Both of LaGrange’s runs, which came in the top of the sixth inning, were unearned.
“We didn’t hit in the second game,” Heath said. “We’ll have to adjust, and swing the bats.”
LaGrange manufactured two runs in the fifth inning to make it a one-run game.
Kaylee Bryant and Williams led off the winning with back-to-back singles, and an Aldridge fielder’s choice put runners on first and third.
With two outs, Aldridge took off from first on a stolen-base attempt, and the throw to second went awry and sailed into the outfield. Williams and Aldridge both scored, cutting Denmark’s lead to 3-2.
Denmark scored a run on a two-out error in the bottom of the sixth to cap the scoring.
Vanhoose, Marable, Bryant and Williams each had hits for LaGrange.
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