High School Sports

North Myrtle Beach pours it on, crushes Manning in playoff opener

North Myrtle Beach’s Emmalee Ballard dives back to the base as Manning’s Laura Beth Thigpen bobbles the throw.
North Myrtle Beach’s Emmalee Ballard dives back to the base as Manning’s Laura Beth Thigpen bobbles the throw. for the sun news

It may have been nitpicking given the final score.

But North Myrtle Beach pitcher and five-hole batter Serrah Ballard had a request of herself and her teammates how Friday night could have been better.

“If we can start hitting earlier in the game, maybe start getting the runs earlier,” Ballard said. “[We need] to start jumping on them. Whenever we get our energy up, we get more runs.”

The freshman had a valid point for a team trying to make a significant run in the Class AAA softball playoffs, even if it didn’t matter much against Manning.

North Myrtle Beach dispatched the Monarchs with an 11-1 victory that required only five innings to open the postseason. The Chiefs scored seven runs in the fourth and then added two more to enact the mercy rule in the fifth.

It was a dominant finish, even if James Graves’ team didn’t come roaring out of the gate.

“I think it will knowing that we’ve got to do it from the first inning on,” Graves said. “To me, the sign of a good club is no matter who you’re playing, if they score and tie it up, you come back and put more pressure on them.”

To an extent, the Chiefs did that.

After Manning tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the second on Laura Beth Thigpen’s RBI double, North Myrtle Beach - after a scoreless bottom of the frame - went up for good on Emmalee Ballard’s sacrifice fly in the third. Then, in the fourth, the Chiefs poured it on.

They sent 11 batters to the plate, recorded five hits and took advantage of a Monarchs error to put the game out of reach.

Emmalee Ballard finished with three RBIs and Regan Urbaniak had two. By the time it was over every player in the starting lineup accounted for a run, RBI or both. Only one North Myrtle Beach starter failed to reach base at least twice in the game.

That kind of production would serve the Chiefs well throughout a district tournament that also includes a strong Hanahan program. Figuring out how to make sure the offense comes alive earlier now becomes priority.

“I’d clone it and sell it off to a lot of people. I’d make a lot of money,” Graves said. “I can fuss, but I don’t know. We’ve been slow starting all year, getting behind against good ball clubs. Sometimes, it’s hard to dig our way out.”

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▪ W: Serrah Ballard L: Laura Beth Thigpen Top hitters: Manning: Kadaijah Gamble 1-2, 2B, Run; Laura Beth Thigpen 1-1, 2B, BB, RBI. North Myrtle Beach: Myatt Hardwick 1-2, 2 BB, RBI, Run; Emmalee Ballard 1-3, 3 RBI, Run; Makala Gore 1-1, 2 HBP RBI..

▪ Records: Manning 9-8; North Myrtle Beach 15-12..

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