If Gray Collegiate’s players had any nerves going into the team’s first softball state championship appearance, they were quickly gone after their first time through the lineup.
The War Eagles scored five runs in the top of the first inning Monday on their way to a 7-0 win over Latta in the opening game of the best-of-three Class 2A championship series.
Game two is set for Wednesday night at Reco Field in Cayce. A third game, if necessary, would be played at a neutral site Friday.
The War Eagles are looking for their first state title in softball and the school’s third overall this year. Gray’s football team and boys basketball team also won state championships, and the War Eagles baseball team is in the championship series.
”When we were on the bus coming to the game, I said, ‘Everyone listen, we are going to not let this be a close game and we are going to get up on them big,’ ” Gray senior second baseman Brooke Tranum said. “We did that and I was really proud of us.”
Tranum, a College of Charleston signee, was part of the team’s five-run first inning that chased Latta starting pitcher Jayla Jackson after just 21 pitches. The Gray senior singled to put runners on first and third with no outs in the first.
After Gray scored its first run on a Latta error, Maddox Long followed with am RBI single to make it 2-0. Kaley Anderson singled and Na’Veah Matthews walked to load the bases.
Madison Knapper hit a hard groundball to the shortstop, who misplayed the ball as it squirted into the outfield, allowed three runs to score and bumped the Gray lead to 5-0.
“We think we got some good bats and we like to jump on people,” Gray coach Doug Frye said. “I didn’t know we would get five, but we always try to get at least two.”
Tranum added an RBI single in the second, and then the War Eagles scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 7-0.
Gray pitcher Taylor Corley was in control and said the early run support was big for confidence. The right-hander allowed four hits while walking one and striking out six for the complete-game victory.
It was her first complete-game shutout since the War Eagles defeated Saluda 1-0 on March 29.
“It definitely helped and gave me a sense of comfort,” Corley said of the five-run first inning. “I always trust my defense, but it definitely helped getting five runs in the first inning.”
Katelyn Johnson had two of Latta’s four hits. The Vikings are playing in their 10th state championship series, with the last coming in 2019.
Latta advanced to the championship with a dramatic extra-inning win over Buford on Friday. Both Frye and Corley know it is going to take a lot to close things out on Wednesday.
“You’ve got to stay humble because they are going to come harder than they did today,” Corley said. “We just need to continue to focus on our hitting after the first inning and continue to score runs the entire game.”
WP: Taylor Corley LP: Jayla Jackson Hitters: GC: Brooke Tranum 3-3 RBI; Maddox Long 1-4 2 RBI; Brooklin Thomas 1-3. L: Johnson 2-3.
SCHSL Softball Championship Scores
Lexington at Fort Mill, ppd., to Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
Catawba Ridge at North Augusta, ppd., to Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
Broome 7, Aynor 0, Broome leads series, 1-0
Gray Collegiate, 7, Latta 0, Gray leads series, 1-0
Lewisville at Bamberg-Ehrhardt, ppd, to Tuesday