The Lugoff-Elgin softball team didn’t have much to worry about every time Baleigh Lunsford took the ball in the pitching circle.
Lunsford was one of the top pitchers in the Midlands, helping the Demons to their second straight region title. L-E made it to the Class 4A Upper State championship game before losing to Byrnes.
The junior went 25-4 with a 1.30 ERA and 161 strikeouts this year. She pitched a perfect game and threw a no-hitter against Dutch Fork to clinch the region title and one against Gaffney in the district title game.
Lunsford, who also had several one-hitters, was an all-state selection and was named The State’s Softball Player of the Year.
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“I knew I had to step after the other pitcher Erin Blizzard graduated. There is a lot of pressure on the position and I just had to do the best that I could,” Lunsford said. “I really don’t focus on perfect games, no hitters or strikeouts. I just try to do the best that I can execute my pitches.”
Lunsford has been on the varsity team since her freshman year, but started out playing first and third base. With the graduation of Blizzard, the decision was made for her to become the team’s No. 1 pitcher.
Lunsford welcomed the move as the team’s go-to pitcher and the pressure that goes along with it.
“I like pitching. I know it is a lot of pressure. I love to be in control of the game and touch the ball every play,” the right-hander said.
Lunsford put the work in to get ready for her breakout year. She worked with her grandfather, who acted as her catcher during workouts nearly every day.
Lunsford also took pitching lessons from Jessica Boulware, the former Florida State All-American and softball coach at Cardinal Newman, over the summer.
“She is a very quiet leader but she is a leader on the team. And her work ethic is what stands out the most,” Lugoff-Elgin assistant coach Michael Rawl said. “She hasn’t got here by accident. She worked her tail off and we had confidence in her every time she was out there.”
Lunsford also was counted on for her bat and was the team’s No. 3 hitter. Rawl called her one of the best clutch hitters on the team, hitting .381 with 29 RBIs, which was second most on the team.
“When it was late in the game and she was up to bat, then that is where we wanted to be,” Rawl said.