During the first four frames in Darlington on Wednesday night, Colleton County softball looked nearly unstoppable. But just one inning later, it all slipped away in an instant.
After the Cougars took an early 4-0 lead, the hometown Falcons stormed back with eight unanswered runs to pull out an 8-4 victory and complete the two-game sweep in the SCHSL Class 4A Lower State championship series.
After a quick first inning, Colleton County looked to set up a rally in the second with a pair of singles and a hit-by-pitch loading up the bases with just one out. But Darlington’s Madie Andrews was up to the task, retiring the next two batters on an infield popup and a strikeout to keep the game scoreless.
The Cougars threatened again in the top half of the third, and this time cashed in to seize the advantage. Shandi Brown sparked the big inning with a leadoff double, and Whitley Weathers reached on an infield error to put runners on first and second. With two outs in the frame, Makayla Chisolm poked a grounder up the middle to score Brown before Jordan Slocum plated two more on a sharp line drive to right field, extending the lead to 3-0.
Weathers mowed down the Falcon lineup in the third and fourth innings, setting down six straight batters while helping her own cause at the plate with a bullet to center field to score Bailey Cox and make it a 4-0 ballgame.
But Darlington found an extra gear in the bottom of the fifth to turn the contest on its head. After loading up the bases on a trio of singles, Naya Jones came through in the clutch, ripping a two-out, bases-clearing triple into center field to suddenly bring the Falcons within one. A costly error then knotted up the game before Alayna Williamson roped a double into right to snatch the 5-4 lead.
The momentum surge continued into the sixth, as the Cougars went down in order on a strikeout and a pair of ground balls to second. Darlington tacked on three important insurance runs in the bottom half, and Andrews closed it out in the seventh to send the Falcons into the Class 4A state championship series.
Weathers concluded an amazing season with another strong performance in the circle, allowing just three earned runs through six innings while picking up four strikeouts. Slocum delivered a fantastic showing to lead the Cougar offense, going 3-for-4 and driving in two runs while Brown and Maggie Kennedy picked up two hits apiece.
Colleton County finishes the season with an outstanding record of 18-2.
By Wes Kerr