In the waning moments of Conway’s win over Socastee on Friday night, the Tigers weren’t preparing to celebrate a significant victory that clinched a postseason berth.
No, they were talking about Carolina Forest.
Word from a parent who heard the Panthers had upset the region’s first-place team (South Florence) made its way onto the field. And it was a noticeably different reaction than Conway’s players had for their own success.
How times have changed.
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Just four years ago, the Tigers snapped a streak of seasons in which they missed the playoffs. And now, heading back for another year, Conway is also within striking distance of a region title.
“I tried to tell them before the game ‘You don’t know where you’re sitting. If you win tonight, you’re guaranteed to go to the playoffs,’” coach Mike Skipper said. “I don’t think they realized it, even after last night. What it is really is a typical Friday night reaction. They’re ready for the weekend. Our weeks are long.”
This one happened to be pretty good.
Conway picked up and big road win Thursday at West Florence – one of the two teams currently tied for first place in the region – and then backed it up with a solid performance against the Braves.
Socastee jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Savannah Elliott’s two-RBI single in the second inning. From there, Conway’s defense put the clamps on the Braves.
In the final five innings, Tigers pitcher Chelsea Mitchell allowed three harmless hits and faced only two batters over the minimum.
I tried to tell them before the game ‘You don’t know where you’re sitting. If you win tonight, you’re guaranteed to go to the playoffs.’ I don’t think they realized it, even after last night. What it is really is a typical Friday night reaction. They’re ready for the weekend. Our weeks are long.
Conway softball coach Mike Skipper
One of Socastee’s base runners was doubled up and another was caught stealing.
“We have a better defensive team than we do an offensive [team],” shortstop Taylor Richardson said. “We have opportunities when we need to hit the ball, we don’t really take those opportunities. But our defense is pretty good.”
It gave the Tigers plenty of time to move ahead on the scoreboard. Conway tied the game with Richardson’s two-RBI double in the fourth and then went ahead for good when Ashley Rowell, the next batter, brought Richardson home.
“Time after time, they just find a way to bounce back,” Skipper said. “We lost a game about a week-and-a-half ago. Aynor beat us down. The next day, they lost a game to South Florence [in extra innings]. They do a really good job of flushing it. They don’t let it eat them alive.”
The loss left Socastee in sole possession of fourth place, at least for now. The Braves will finish either in that spot or in fifth, depending on how the last two games play out.
Coach Steve Hodge, who is in charge of a team with no seniors and only four juniors, certainly controls its destiny, starting with a game against Carolina Forest on Tuesday. Still, there is plenty up in the air both at the top and bottom of the region standings.
“I thought it would be a little more clear-cut than what it is right now,” Hodge said. “As young as we are and as much as we play back and forth, I really wasn’t sure what I would get out of my girls. But you always have your South Florences and your Carolina Forests and your Conways and your West Florences.”
Three of those teams are playoff bound. The fourth, Carolina Forest, certainly had people talking Friday.
As for Conway? The Tigers can enjoy their weekend a bit more.
▪ W: Chelsea Mitchell L: Hailey LeDuc S: .Top hitters: SOC: Savannah Elliott 2-4, 2 RBI; Marie Bennett 1-3, R. CON: Taylor Richardson 1-4, 2B 2 RBI; Ashley Rowell 2-3, RBI; Morgan Shelley 1-2, HBP, R.
▪ Records: SOC 6-13, 3-5 Region VI-AAAA; CON 7-8, 5-3.