If softball games lasted four innings then Salem would be a pretty good team, and they would've won against Flowery Branch on Tuesday. But games are seven innings and it only took five for Flowery Branch to run-rule Salem 14-4 in what was a great showing for the Lady ‘Noles through four innings.
Both sides went down in order in the first and second inning, but in the third inning Salem was in trouble. Flowery Branch had the bases loaded with no outs and the top of Flowery's order was coming up. Unwavered, Salem's defense made some great plays to get out of the inning unscathed.
It started with Salem third baseman who made a great catch on a line drive right at her before diving at the ankles of the runner on third to get the tag and the double play. Lady Noles' freshman pitcher Shyann Foxx walked the next batter and the bases were loaded again, but the following at-bat was a pop out and it was Salem's turn to score.
The third inning proved pivotal for both teams, but mostly for Salem.
Foxx hit a single past second to get on after a Salem pop out opened the inning. Aleah Hill followed up the hit with a blast to deep center for a double to put both runners in scoring position.
Salem shortstop Kennedy Lester hit a blooper over the second baseman to score Foxx. Hill tried to score on the hit, but the ball was fired home and she was tagged out, directly after that Lester was caught in a rundown and Salem's momentum was stalled.
"Offensively we did a good job at times," Bobby Link, Salem head coach, said. "They're (Flowery Branch) a good team, but sometimes people take us for granted and they don't think we're as good of players as we are. That's fine. We're just gonna keep playing hard."
In the top of the fourth, Salem recorded two quick outs - one being a great diving catch behind second by Lester - Foxx followed by hitting the next batter and walking two straight to load the bases. A run would score on a passed ball and Flowery Branch tied the game.
"If we throw strikes we've got a pretty good defense. Kennedy Lester can play. Our left side of our field is pretty good. We just gotta throw strikes," Bobby Link, Salem head coach, said.
Salem added two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and if that was the game then Salem would've won, but it wasn't.
There were more than three free bases, more than three errors and more than five hits in the top of the fifth for Flowery Branch, all leading to 13 runs in the inning. Salem scored one run in the bottom of the fifth but inevitably fell 14-4 due to the mercy rule.
"We hit five people, we walked four. You can't defense free bases and all those scored. I mean, 98 percent of all walks at the high school level in softball/baseball score. You can't defend that," Link said. "But anyway, we're getting better."
"We can swing the bat a lot better than people give us credit for. There were positives," Link added optimistically. "The negative is you give up 10 runs in one inning and you can't do that. Once they got a couple runs ahead and the we start throwing the ball around and then we start getting tired, the good ball clubs can't do that."