By Mike McClure

The Laurel varsity softball team trailed Sussex Central, 8-0, through the first four innings of the state semifinals game on May 27. The Bulldogs rallied for a run in the fifth and sixth innings and two in the seventh before falling in the road contest, 8-4.

Sussex Central freshman Madge Layfield struck out the side in the top of the first. The Knights put a pair of runs on the board in the bottom of the inning as Takyla Davis drew a one-out walk and stole second, Kate Evick walked, and courtesy runner Kamryn Payne and Davis moved up on a double steal. Davis scored on a sac fly and Payne came home on an infield single by McKenna Boyle for a 2-0 lead.

Bulldogs’ senior Couri Smith puts down a bunt single in her team’s state semifinal game against Sussex Central. Photo by Mike McClure

Sussex Central added another run in the second inning as Makenna Messina reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, and scored on a two-out error.

In the bottom of the third, Jones walked, moved up on an error, and scored on a single by senior Aryanna Briddell (4-0). Couri Smith collected the Bulldogs’ first hit of the game in the top of the fourth, but was thrown out attempting to steal second.

The Golden Knights increased their lead to 8-0 with three more runs in the bottom of the inning. Layfield reached on an error following a sac bunt and courtesy runner Kiersten Anderson came home on a fielder’s choice, beating the throw home. Boyle doubled in Catherine Hassler (fielder’s choice), Davis (fielder’s choice), and Mya Jones (walk).

Laurel senior Kaegen Brittingham hit a solo home run with two away in the fifth inning to make it 8-1.

Bulldogs’ hurler Emma Cooper, who came on in the fourth inning for Kylee Hill, sent the Knights down in order in the bottom of the fifth. Laurel’s Olivia Rogers led off with a single, Carlie Venables singled, and Bailey Ullman hit a one-out single to load the bases. Ashlyn Ullman reached on a fielder’s choice to score Rogers (8-2).

Sussex Central loaded the bases in the sixth inning with one out on singles by Hassler and Jones and an error, but Cooper got a strikeout and a fly out to strand the runners.

The Bulldogs put their rally caps on in the top of the seventh after Brittingham hit a one-out single before giving way to pinch runner Baylee Lynch. Rogers hit a two-out double to bring home Lynch and scored on a single by Venables. The rally ended when Smith was ruled out on a questionable third strike call and Sussex Central moved on to the state championship with the 8-4 win. 

Brittingham had two hits including a home run, Rogers collected a pair of hits including a double, Venables added two hits, and Smith and Bailey Ullman contributed one hit apiece for Laurel.

The Knights fell to Caravel, 1-0 in 11 innings, in the championship game.