The Aynor softball team found itself in unfamiliar territory Wednesday night – needing to respond from a rare loss this season.
They did just that, defeating Battery Creek 5-0 in a winner-take- all game for the District VI-3A championship.
The Blue Jackets came into the day needing one win to secure the district title, facing a team in Battery Creek that they had defeated earlier in the bracket. In the first game, Aynor struck for two runs in the second inning, but couldn’t muster any more offense against Battery Creek’s Alex Ortiz and lost the contest 4-2.
After the game, coach Tony Mills told his team they had their playoff future in their hands.
“We told them that somebody’s season was going to end tonight, for a fact,” he said. “If they didn’t want it to be them, they needed to play with some fire. That team (Battery Creek) is a really talented team and they have some great, young players.”
After dropping the first game, Aynor and Battery Creek had a break of 30 minutes, during which the Aynor coaching staff looked to its seniors to lead the team.
“We had some great senior leadership following that first game. I met with the team briefly, the other coaches talked to them in the outfield, and then I left it up to our seniors,” Mills said. “These seniors have been here, they were here two years ago to win a state championship, so they knew what they were up against.”
Facing elimination, Aynor responded in a big way, tagging Ortiz for five runs and surrendering none of their own behind pitcher Layna Johnson.
A big third inning proved to be enough for Aynor, with Emily Squires and Brooke Elliott scoring in the frame before a Johnson home run made the score 3-0 in favor of the Blue Jackets. Aynor would add two insurance runs in the fifth inning and did enough to keep Battery Creek’s offense at bay throughout the game.
The game ended with the bases loaded for Battery Creek, Aynor’s tough defense standing tall in the critical moment.
“They don’t quit, there’s not an ounce of quit in this team,” Mills said. “We’ve been down in games this year and they’ve always come back and responded. In that first game, (Battery Creek) took the momentum from us, they hit the ball well and made it tough on us. As a coach, you always wonder how your team is going to respond and battle back. We came out and set the tone in that second game and really timed up their pitcher well later on in the game.”
Now that his team has a district title in hand, Mills and company will turn their attention toward another state title.
“If you’re playing at this time of year, you have a good team,” he said. “You can pitch and hit and play defense, everybody can. It’s about being mentally tough this time of year. We’ve got a really talented and young team, but we’re really going to see what we’re made of in the next couple of days.”
Aynor will play host to Hanahan on Saturday in the Class 3A Lower State bracket.