Grand strand invitational

Tables turn on St. James softball

For The Sun NewsApril 2, 2013 

— The St. James softball team has quickly found out how most of its opponents this season have felt.

After racing out to a 12-0 record, the Sharks dropped their second consecutive game Tuesday in the Grand Strand Invitational. The 2-1 defeat at the hands of Tallwood (Va.) at Pepper Geddings was disappointing, but one that may ultimately help St. James more in the long run.

A team that scored at least seven runs in eight of its first 12 victories and demolished Wilson 26-0 last week needed to know it won’t always be so easy.

“That’s pretty much what it comes down to,” St. James senior pitcher Casey Betts said. “We’ve been there knowing what we can do. But we’re not going to be run-ruling everyone like we have been.”

That certainly didn’t happen Monday during a weather-shortened 5-3 loss to Star Point (N.Y.) or Tuesday against Tallwood. The Lions started five freshmen and sophomores, but they kept attacking. They piled up 11 hits in the game, none bigger than Janelle Benzick’s two-RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to win it.

Meanwhile, St. James’ offense never got going.

Its lone run came in the fifth off center fielder Kelci Bachmann’s RBI single. The way Tallwood was swinging away early and often, St. James coach Adam Jones knew it may not be enough.

“We should have never had only one run,” he said. “We should have never had to rely on our pitcher up 1-0. We’ve got to hit the ball better. Anybody can catch a fly ball. We’re hitting little blooper fly balls. We can’t ask our pitchers to throw shutouts every game.”

Betts and fellow senior pitcher Alexis Gunnell have done more than their fair share. They’ve held eight opponents to one or no runs.

They’ll have a chance to add to that tally once more this week when the Sharks wrap up their appearance in the Grand Strand Invitational Wednesday against Whitmer (Ohio). But even that game won’t be as crucial as the pair of contests the Sharks have next week.

St. James (6-0 in Region VII-AAA) could wrap up the region title as early as Friday with victories Tuesday at home against Georgetown and at Myrtle Beach Friday. The Sharks defeated those teams by a combined 21 runs in mid-March.

Those were the type of performances fans came to expect, and part of the reason Jones believes he has another squad capable of a deep playoff run starting at the end of this month.

“This team has a high ceiling,” Jones said. “We raised it early. It’s come back down a little bit. But this team has great potential to be one of the better teams St. James has ever had.

“We had scored so many runs on teams. We beat some good teams, and beat them pretty handedly. But to take two losses in this tournament, it is a wake-up call. Down the road, we’ll look at these two losses, and we’ll be better because of it.”

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• W – Shelby Probert. L – Casey Betts (5-2). Top hitters – St. James: Kelsi Bachmann 2-3, RBI, SB; Kaitie Cook 1-2, Run, SB. Tallwood: Janelle Benzick 2-4, 2 RBI; Leighanne Hughes 3-4; Taylor Stubbs 2-3, 2B.

•  Records: St. James 12-2; Tallwood 4-5.

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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