Albany State power-hitter Kandis Banks, far right, celebrates with teammates at home plate after producing the play of the game — a three-run blast — during Wednesday’s doubleheader with Georgia Southwestern. ASU swept their neighboring rivals for the second time in school history with a 4-2 win in Game 1 and 1-0 victory in Game 2. ( email@example.com)
ALBANY — The Albany State softball team went from making errors to making history.
Two days after getting swept and committing 11 errors in a season-opening doubleheader loss against West Georgia, the Lady Rams swept Georgia Southwestern for just the second time in the 10-year history of the matchup. ASU won Tuesday’s opener, 4-2, and clipped the Lady Hurricanes in the second game, 1-0.
“It’s exciting. It feels good to make history,” said ASU junior Shay Marks, who pitched six innings and allowed just two hits in the second game. “We were letting balls drop in the outfield and not fielding bunts (against West Georgia). We weren’t doing the small stuff. We corrected our mistakes.”
The Lady Hurricanes, who were also swept by the Lady Rams in Albany in 2008, according to the Albany State sports information office, still have a lopsided 23-9 advantage in the series, but ASU claimed the latest bragging rights in the Southwest Georgia rivalry with Wednesday’s wins.
Lady Rams coach Robert Skinner charged out of the dugout in celebration after pitcher Chelsea Hicks, who pitched a complete game in the opener and picked up the save in Game No. 2, recorded the final out of the day.
“We went through a routine practice (Tuesday) and talked about what we did wrong Monday,” Skinner said. “We realized we were a much better team than the way we played Monday. We didn’t let our talent show Monday. The talent we have showed up (Wednesday).”
ASU is now 2-2 overall heading into Friday’s home doubleheader against No. 11 nationally-ranked Rollins College. In Wednesday’s games, GSW (2-4) had five hits and seven errors — a combination that left Lady Hurricanes coach Eddie Ward fuming as he walked off the field.
“No,” said Ward when asked if there was anything positive he was able to take from Wednesday’s losses. “Did you expect me to take anything positive?”
Ward then added: “I am very disappointed in our season so far. We didn’t bring any intensity (Wednesday). We are a lot better ball club than we showed. I am just disappointed in our overall play, in all phases.”
The Lady Hurricanes had a 2-1 lead in the opener behind starting pitcher Katie Maddox, who allowed just one hit and one run in the first five innings. But then Maddox ran into trouble in the sixth inning when her defense committed a pair of errors and allowed ASU sisters Shay and Chaconna Marks to reach base.
Next up was designated player Kandis Banks, who had a brief word with Skinner before stepping up to the plate.
“I told her to hit the ball — hit the ball deep,” Skinner said. “We had a man on third and a man on second and we were going to do a double tag. …I told her I needed her to send it deep so we could get the run. (As soon as she hit it) there was no doubt. It came off the bat just right.”
Banks sent a shot deep over the left field wall on the first pitch of her at-bat, vaulting the Lady Rams into a two-run lead. It was Banks’ first home run of the season and the seventh of her career.
“I knew we were one (run) back, and I knew I had to do something to get us back in the game,” said Banks, a junior from Ellenwood.
Hicks, who threw seven innings in the opener and allowed three hits, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning to give the Lady Rams their first win of the year.
The second game turned into a pitchers’ duel between ASU’s Shay Marks and GSW’s Brittny Dennison, a Lee County native and former Herald Player of the Year who played the last two years at Darton. Dennison threw 4.2 innings and allowed four hits and a run, but the right-hander was outdone by Marks, who allowed just two hits in her six innings of work. The ASU junior also had a defense behind her that made nearly-impossible plays look routine.
Right fielder Sierra Gaines threw a rocket to home in the fourth inning to get out Rachel McElroy in a play at the plate; middle infielders Adrienne Morris and Bainbridge native Vanessa Jones turned a double play that got Marks out of a jam in the fifth; and left fielder Jasmine Tolen made a diving catch for the first out of the seventh.
“I felt confident with my field,” said Shay, who left the first game with a knee injury before coming back to throw a gem in the nightcap. “I didn’t mind pitching a strike and getting it hit because I knew somebody in the outfield would catch it or somebody in the infield would field it.”
ASU’s lone run in the second game came in the second inning when Ke’cia Griffin singled in Virginia Morris.
Nobody from either team had multiple hits in the doubleheader. Banks’ home run and a triple by ASU catcher Chaconna Marks in the opener were the only extra-base hits of the day.
Former Lee County players Dennison and Haley Knight, GSW’s center fielder, both finished hitless, while ASU first baseman Shelby Gale, a Seminole County grad, was 0-for-4.