AYNOR — Few expected the Waccamaw softball team to compete for a region title.
Even fewer believed the Warriors would push Dillon to the brink before falling just short. Courtesy of a 15-game winning streak and a near-heroic comeback Monday, Scott Streiffert’s looked like one more than capable of making a deep run in the Class AA playoffs, which begin Thursday.
Yes, Waccamaw lost 10-8 to the No. 2 team in the state. And yes, the Warriors failed to earn a coveted top seed for the postseason. But this is a team that was feeling pretty darn good about the way it nearly pulled off some late-inning magic.
“We just stayed in the game at every moment,” senior Melaina Moore said after breaking a pretty vibrant post-game huddle. “We were down, but we came back. We’re good at that. We just stayed so focused. We stayed relaxed. So it makes our confidence go up even higher.
“They thought in the third inning the game was over. We had to come back against their best pitcher.”
Waccamaw entered the bottom of the fifth inning trailing 10-0. Dillon starting pitcher Darby Hamer had been nothing short of dominant to that point. She’d allowed just two hits and not allowed a Warriors baserunner to reach third base.
On top of that, she’d received all that run support from the bottom of the lineup. The Dillon seven, eight and nine hitters had each hit a home run by that point.
The game, a one-game playoff to determine the Region VIII-AA title, had a different feel from there.
Waccamaw put together four runs in the bottom of the fifth, and four more in the bottom of the sixth. The last three came off a Moore three-run shot to left-center.
“I’m proud of the fact our kids came back,” Streiffert said. “We didn’t show a whole lot of signs on offense [early]. We’ve been scoring a lot of runs. But obviously Hamer’s a good pitcher. It’s the fourth inning, and it’s 10-0. Then we string together a couple hits and put some pressure on them.”
Waccamaw couldn’t complete the comeback bid in the last inning. But what the Warriors did do was continue to show just how much they’re capable of surprising area softball fans.
After all, this team was projected to finish no better than third in a region that includes Dillon and Aynor.
“We were the underdogs, definitely,” Moore said. “We like that, because no one has confidence in us, so we play even harder. If we have it, that’s all we really need.”
But will anyone consider the Warriors the underdogs come Thursday?
“No, I don’t think so,” Moore added.
This Waccamaw team doesn’t have the same make-up it did when it went on to win the 2010 state title. That year, senior pitcher and Toast of the Coast Player of the Year Ashley Czechner – now 9-0 as a starter at LSU after leading Chattanooga State Community College to the NJCAA national title last year – mowed down opposing hitters. The Warriors won a lot of low-scoring games that year.
The 2013 version, however, is built on plenty of offense. The team has produced double-digit run tallies in 15 different games this year.
They defeated the Wildcats on April 11. Another strong showing Monday, then, wasn’t out of the equation. The combination has the Warriors believing a postseason run is more than a small possibility.
“Psychologically, that will help them,” Streiffert said. “That can certainly help us in the playoffs. I’m looking at the big picture. Dillon has been ranked first or second in the state the whole year. Most people have come to the conclusion you’re going to have to beat them at some point.
“I think our kids feel pretty good.”
• W – Darby Hamer. L – Hallie Butler. Top Hitters – Dillon: Erin Bailey 2-2, HR, 2 BB, 2 RBI, 3 Runs; Dalkerkia Samuel 1-3, HR, BB, 2 RBI, 2 Runs; Makayla Drake 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 Runs. Waccamaw: Melaina Moore 2-4 HR, 3 RBI, 2 Runs; Riley Morris 1-2, 2 HBP, RBI, 2 Runs; Olivia Dunlap 2-5, 2 Runs.
• Records: Dillon 19-3, 10-1 Region VIII-AA; Waccamaw 22-4, 9-2.
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.