ELIZABETHTOWN — The lady Eagles softball team was given a rude welcome back to the state playoffs after a six-year absence, falling to Graham in the first round of the Class 2-A bracket on Tuesday, 9-4.
The loss ends East Bladen’s season at 9-8.
The visiting Lady Red Devils nicked pitcher Miller Heustess for an unearned run in the top of the first inning, thanks to a leadoff single, passed ball and a pop-up that should have been caught but fell for an error.
The Lady Eagles knotted the score at 1-1 in the home half when Lacey Suggs led off with a bunt single, stole second and scored on two wild pitches.
Graham plated a pair of runs in the second inning, once again with the aid of a pop fly that should have been caught but fell cleanly. The next two hitters singled, and a wild pitch and groundout send two runs across for a 3-1 lead.
The Lady Red Devils began another scoring threat in the third with a single and an East Bladen error, but a double play turned by Emily Scott at second base on a line drive thwarted any damage.
East Bladen looked to have a threat started in the bottom of the third when Suggs reached on a one-out error, stole second and Anna Brewer hit a soft pop near second base. Suggs, who had started for third, quickly went back to second and inadvertently ran into the shortstop trying to make a play on the ball. Brewer was safe at first, but the umpires, after a pow-wow, called Suggs out for interference. The inning fizzled shortly after.
In the fourth frame, Graham exploded for five runs against Suggs, who was now in her second inning in relief of Heustess. The Lady Red Devils batted around, had three hits and were assisted by two walks and a hit batter — taking an 8-1 lead.
Abbey Norris and Heustess each singled in the bottom of the fourth and, after a double steal, were on second and third with one out. But both were left stranded.
Suggs got the first two outs of the fifth with a tapper back to the circle and a strikeout, but the inning derailed there when a hit batter, error and wild pitch gave the Lady Red Devils their ninth run of the game.
Heustess returned to the circle for the sixth and seventh inning and held Graham scoreless.
The Lady Eagles rallied in the bottom of the sixth. Norris reached on an error and Abby Ward smoked a run-scoring double to the left field corner. A wild pitch send Ward to third and Scott’s groundout sent Ward scampering home to cut the deficit to 9-3.
In the bottom of the seventh, Suggs led off with a long triple to the fence in left-center and scored one out later when Lexi Dawson reached on an error. Ward walked with two outs, but the rally ended there.
“Ever aspect of the game was bad,” said East Bladen coach Patty Evers. “They just didn’t act like they were excited about being in the playoffs.
“We’re young, OK … but we didn’t make the easy, routine plays,” she added. “especially early in the game.”
Suggs led the lady Eagles at the plate, going 2-for-4 with the triple and two runs scored. Ward had the double and RBI, and Heustess was 1-for-2.
Heustess took the loss, pitching four innings and gave up five hits, no walks and fanned three. Suggs twirled three innings and gave up four hits, two walks, two hit batters and struck out one.