Bulldogs return to state semifinals for fourth straight year

By Mike McClure

The Laurel varsity softball team returned to the state semifinals for the fourth straight year with a 4-3 home win over Caesar Rodney last Saturday. The Bulldogs avenged an 8-5 regular season loss to the Riders on April 16.

“We didn’t put a lot of balls in play but this time we did,” said Laurel head coach Sara Jo Whaley, adding that the team had six strikeouts last time around compared to just one this time.

The Bulldogs’ Baylee “LB” Lynch scores the go ahead run as third base coach Wayne Culver and teammate Katie Calloway (15) look on following a single by Ashlyn Ullman. Photo by Mike McClure

“We definitely made big improvements since the last time we played them,” senior Kylee Hill said. “Hopefully we take that next step.”

Laurel was scheduled to visit Caravel on Wednesday in the state semifinals (see next week’s Laurel Star).

On Saturday, Caesar Rodney’s Madison Fox collected a two-out double and scored on a triple by Sydney Hatch in the top of the first inning for a 1-0 lead. Hill sent the Riders down in order in the second.

In the bottom of the second Laurel’s Katie Calloway hit a leadoff single, Kylee Hill reached on a fielder’s choice on a force out at second, and courtesy runner Caylee Nelson moved to third on a groundout. Alyssa Brittingham sent a ball to left field and went to second on an error before moving to third and coming home on a throwing error for a 2-1 Laurel lead.

Caesar Rodney’s Amiya Carpenter hit a leadoff double in the top of the third. Chloe Donigan’s bunt single put runners on the corners. Elizabeth McCarthy bunted and Hill fielded the ball, faked a throw to first and threw home for the out. Following an intentional walk to Hatch to load the bases, shortstop Khloe Shockley fielded a ground ball and threw to second baseman Braidyn Hoffman for the out to end the inning.

The Riders’ Alyssa Kennard hit a leadoff double in the fourth and beat the throw home following a groundout to tie the score at 2-2 before Hill got a strikeout to end the inning.

Caesar Rodney took the lead in the top of the fifth when Donigan led off with a triple and scored on a sac fly by Madison Fox (3-2). Hatch hit a seeing eye single with two away before Hill fielded a comebacker and went to first for the final out.

Laurel mounted its final comeback in the bottom of the inning as Hoffman hit a leadoff single and senior Kaitlyn Roy was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. Baylee “LB” Lynch reached on a fielder’s choice as the Riders got the force at third for the second out of the inning. The runners moved up on a wild pitch and Ashlyn Ullman delivered a two-run single with two strikes to make it 4-3 Laurel.

“I was feeling really good in the box. It (two strikes) really didn’t affect me I was just ready to hit,” said Ashlyn Ullman.

Hill sent the Riders down in order in the sixth inning, recording strikeouts five and six of the game. Caesar Rodney’s Amiya Carpenter walked to leadoff the seventh inning and moved to second on a bunt by Donigan. Laurel third baseman Ashlyn Ullman caught a pop out in foul territory and catcher Bailey Ullman made a catch behind the plate to seal the win.

Bailey Ullman, Hill, Shockley, Ashlyn Ullman, and Calloway each collected a hit.

“We’ve been really working hard this week (especially on hitting),” Whaley said. “We just have to bring our bats to the plate and have disciplined at-bats (against Caravel).”