Albany State shortstop Malea Maye tags out Georgia Southwestern base runner Mason Moreland at second base during the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — The Albany State softball team was three innings away from a two-game sweep of Georgia Southwestern on Tuesday.
Then the Lady Rams had what coach Robert Skinner called “a total breakdown.”
Georgia Southwestern rallied for a 10-run fifth inning to pull away for an 11-2 victory in the second game, salvaging a split in the non-conference doubleheader. ASU won the opener, 1-0, behind a three-hitter from Alexa Lopez.
“(The fifth inning) was a total breakdown defensively,” Skinner said. “It was one error after another. And with those mistakes — and it wasn’t just the errors — it cost us the fifth inning. And the fifth inning cost us the game.”
In the fifth inning, the Lady Rams committed three errors, allowed two Lady Hurricanes to reach first base on sacrifice bunt attempts and made several other mental mistakes in the field. While it was a head-shaking moment for Skinner, it was a boost the slumping Lady Hurricanes needed after GSW coach Eddie Ward benched half of his starting lineup after the first game, which was the team’s eighth straight loss.
“It’s been really, really frustrating,” Ward said. “I hope we feed off (the fifth inning) and go into a very important double header Saturday against Young Harris. It’s one that we will probably have to sweep. We are mathematically not eliminated (from the Peach Belt Conference tournament), but we need to get to nine or 10 wins to get in.”
The Lady Hurricanes (24-24, 7-11 PBC) racked up seven hits in the fifth, including two in the inning from Allison Pastor. Pastor, the losing pitcher in the opener, loaded the bases in her first at bat with a single and then knocked in two runs in her next at bat with a double off the center field fence. She finished the game 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs.
While Pastor and her teammates provided GSW pitcher Ashley Cavender plenty of run support in the second game, the Lady Hurricanes were quiet at the plate in the opener. They loaded the bases in the first inning on Lopez but failed to score. The closest GSW got to scoring the rest of the game on ASU’s ace was the sixth inning when former Lee County star Hayley Knight singled but was stranded at second.
“I think her changeup is working for her,” Skinner said of Lopez, who also allowed two walks, hit one batter and struck out two. “She has been throwing the changeup on a regular basis and making the most out of it. She is getting hitters to swing at bad pitches, and that’s what she did (Tuesday).”
Albany State (16-20) broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning when Anria Peterson led off with a double and eventually scored on a two-out double from Malea Maye. Maye, whose RBI double screamed down the left field line and barely stayed fair, is typically a slap bunter, but Skinner gave her the green light to swing away.
“She can hit the ball, and nobody expects her to do that,” Skinner said. “She has been playing good for me all year long.”
In the second game, ASU starting pitcher Chelsea Hicks looked strong for the first four innings before walking leadoff hitter Erin Steele in the fifth inning. GSW’s Nellie Moore followed with a ground ball to shortstop, but instead of turning a double play, ASU second baseman Chastity Carter committed an error that opened the flood gates.
The first seven hitters reached base in the fifth inning for the Lady Hurricanes, who brought a total of 14 to the plate in the frame.
The game ended the next inning because of the mercy rule, sending the Lady Rams into today’s doubleheader with Clark Atlanta with a bitter taste in their mouth.
Maye, however, believes her team can bounce back.
“That’s not the first time something like that has happened to us,” she said. “Things like that we have always been able to bounce back from. We are stronger than that.”
NOTES: Pastor allowed nine hits in the opening game but stranded runners in scoring position in four of six innings. Cavender allowed four hits in five innings and stranded ASU runners each inning. … Maye led ASU with four hits in the doubleheader, while Carter and former Westover star Domonique Bryant each had two. … The Lady Rams’ doubleheader at Clark Atlanta will begin at 3 p.m. today. The SIAC games were originally scheduled for Monday but were rained out. … ASU has one more home doubleheader this season: April 19 against Benedict College, which is the final game of the season and the Lady Rams’ senior night. … GSW closes its regular season with three straight home doubleheaders: Saturday against Young Harris, Sunday against North Georgia and Tuesday against West Georgia.