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Rebels starting to hit softball stride

  • Carmen Pinckney/Special to Jasper County Sun Times Ivy Bryan leads Thomas Heyward in batting average (.533), slugging (.822) and RBI (31). The Rebels began the week 10-7.
  • Carmen Pinckney/Special to Jasper County Sun Times Coach Bob Layman said pitcher (7-6, 1.66 ERA, 97 strikeouts in 76 IP as of last week) ”has has gotten better every single game.”

Bob Layman believes Thomas Heyward’s softball team is ready to hit its stride.

The Rebels began the week 10-7, but Layman, THA’s coach, thinks they can only get better.

“I’m OK with where we are,” Layman said.

Layman said the team has developed an understanding of their individual roles and thinks the daily competition at several positions has fueled a desire to play hard.

“They are competing hard every day,” Layman said.

The Rebels have been led by Ivy Bryan (.533 BA, .822 SLG, 31 RBI) and Hannah Cannon (.429 BA, .571 SLG), but contributions have developed throughout the lineup.

Leadoff hitter Alayna DeLong (.361 BA, .540 OBP) has focused on hitting hard line drives and keeping the ball on the ground. During a recent three-game stretch, she was 6 for 8 with five runs scored.

Layman said he told DeLong to do whatever she can to find her way on base. She’s responded.

“Alayna is a great kid,” Layman said. “She retains everything and she’ll work at it.”

Mikayla Blanton had two hits and Danielle Dudley had four hits in a three-game stretch. Layman said pitcher Cheyenne Strong (7-6, 1.66 ERA, 97 strikeouts in 76 IP) “has gotten better every single game.”

The Rebels have six underclassmen, and Layman is encouraged by the team’s growth.

“They have certainly progressed since we started,” he said.

The Rebels’ three-game winning streak ended last week during “the most intense game all year,” at May River, a 4-3 defeat March 28.

THA scored twice in the first inning and once in the fourth, but two errors and two walks led to May River’s first run.

In the top of the sixth, leading 3-2, DeLong had a one-out double off the fence, but the Rebels couldn’t drive her home. Bryan’s drive to left field was snared by May River’s outfielder.

May River, which beat THA 6-1 on March 9, took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, highlighted by two errors and two disputed calls, Layman said.

With a runner on first, the Sharks bunted and THA appeared to throw the batter out at first, but after May River’s coach protested that first baseman Dudley’s foot wasn’t on the base, the home plate umpire overturned the call.

Layman said Dudley’s foot was clearly on the bag in time to record the out. With runners on first and second, May River hit a pop-up. The infield-fly rule was called, which forced out the batter. As May River’s runner raced back to second base, she collided with Bryan, who made the catch and tagged the runner as she fell, Layman said.

Instead of a double play, the field umpire awarded second base to the runner. Layman said the umpire told him the play was a “train wreck,” (“What’s that even mean?” Layman said last week) which is why the runner wasn’t called out.

An error soon after that play led to the tying run, and a ground-out put May River ahead.

Strong and DeLong each had two hits. Strong allowed two earned runs in six innings. She struck out six.

“I don’t feel horrible about the game because I know what happened,” Layman said.

THA was set to visit Hilton Head on Monday and host Colleton Prep on Tuesday. The school has Easter break April 10-17, and the Rebels have three games scheduled from April 7-19: April 7 at Calhoun; April 18 against The King’s (Tenn.) Academy (at University of South Carolina Beaufort); and April 19 at Beaufort.

Layman hopes to also schedule a game against Battery Creek and have an alumni game during the break.

He doesn’t want the team to continue its strong play and then cool off because of the Easter break. Layman thinks the best may be yet to come as the Rebels eye the SCISA state playoffs in May.

“I feel we are going to be a team to be reckoned with,” he said. “I think we have more to give.”

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