Darton’s Jostlyn Higgerson is congratulated after belting a two-run homer in the first game of a doubleheader on Monday. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY – Eric Neel doesn’t want it mentioned.
He doesn’t talk about it.
And he doesn’t let his players talk about it.
But the Darton women’s softball team can no long fly underneath the proverbial radar.
The Lady Cavaliers swept Middle Georgia State College Monday afternoon to run their winning streak to 14 with a 4-3, eight-inning victory. Then they followed up with a 5-3 win in the second game.
Darton (40-10, 17-1) will play its final regular-season games today when they play host to Andrew College at 1 p.m.
“We never talk about the streak,” Neel said. “I don’t want the team to feel any pressure. We’ve got to go 2-0 (on Tuesday) and finish this thing strong.”
In addition to being the top seed in the conference tournament that begins on Thursday, the Lady Cavs can accomplish another goal they set for themselves if they can sweep Andrew today – going undefeated at home.
Neel wants his team to keep improving.
“If we were to win 16 games in a row and not win the first game of the conference tournament, then you don’t feel so good about yourself,” he said. “But we flew under the radar for such a long time that the players believe they can go a long way.”
On Monday, Darton took the first game in strange fashion. After they blew an early 3-0 lead, they rallied to win in extra innings. No. 9 hitter Nicole McInerney bunted and Middle Georgia threw the ball away, allowing Jostlyn Higgerson to score.
It was a special win after the Lady Cavs had taken a 1-0 lead on an RBI double in the first from Jordan Allen, who finished 2-for-4. Then Higgerson added to the lead, ripping a two-run homer in the second inning to give Darton a commanding 3-0 advantage.
But Middle Georgia rallied to tie, pushing three runs across the plate in an uncharacteristic fifth inning off starter Sommar Wright, who had been brilliant.
“We always find a way to win,” Higgerson said. “We try our best to get one more run than the other team. Whatever it takes, we try to grind it out.”
The Lady Cavs were never seriously threatened in the second game. Behind a complete-game gem from Tiffany Bishop, Darton ended Middle Georgia’s season with the victories. The Lady Knights didn’t qualify for the conference tournament.
Bishop wasn’t overpowering but kept Middle Georgia’s offense at bay until the sixth inning when she gave up a pair of singles, followed by a three-run homer. That was after the Lady Cavs had already taken a 5-0 lead.
Bishop also benefited from some nice defensive plays.
“Tiffany did a great job,” Neel said. “She got one pitch up in the zone and that girl did what she needed to do. But Middle Georgia has a great team to not make the conference tournament. I still believe they are one of the top teams.”
Bree Wells’ solo home made it 1-0, then Darton took advantage of a four-run fifth behind RBI singles from Emily Church and Allen.
Neel believes his team is peaking at the right time.
“The mental side is just as important as the physical side,” he said. “This team is playing well in both phases. I can’t ask for a much better effort.”