Vidalia softball drops first playoff opener since 1999

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Four years ago Megan Rowe towed this same rubber as a freshman, struggled to get outs against an experienced Vidalia team and went home knowing she at least tried her best.

On Tuesday everything came full circle.

Almost to the day of that 7-0 loss in Vidalia, Rowe allowed only three hits, walked none and struck out 16 in a 5-1 win over the Lady Vikings in their first visit to the field since that loss in 2003. Rowe threw a lot harder, had a deceptive curveball and a riseball that the Lady Vikings couldn&8217;t seem to lay off.

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She also had a ton of confidence compared to that last outing against Vidalia.

&8220;I&8217;ve been pitching since I was a freshman,&8221; Rowe said. &8220;I remember I was young, and I threw against a solid team. They won state that year. Knowing as good as I did against them as a freshman and them going on and winning state, I felt good. It was nice to come back here and get a little revenge.&8221;

Rowe didn&8217;t waste any time getting to work, and the outcome became evident rather quickly. She fanned the side the first inning and third innings, got the first two on strikeouts in the fourth and the first batter in the fifth.

It&8217;s the first playoff win for a Jonesboro-Hodge team that made the program&8217;s first playoff appearance that day four years ago. Now they&8217;ll face the winner of the Newman-Doyle game later this week with a chance to make the state tournament.

&8220;She&8217;s struck out 239 in 20 ball games,&8221; J-H head coach Harrell Bond said. &8220;She&8217;s our only senior, and she&8217;s got a softball mind. We were going to try to get up for their first two batters, but they changed up on us. I thought their first two batters were their most consistent. I felt like when she got through their first nine we would be all right.&8221;

The Lady Vikings (15-13) got their only hard hit off Rowe in the fifth when Jamiee Jordan parked a double in the gap in center. Jordan later went to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch.

Good thing because Rowe got the last two outs of that inning on strikeouts sandwiched around a Brittany Whittington single.

Jordan was the only hitter in the Vidalia lineup not to strike out. The loss was also the Lady Vikings&8217; first season to go down in the first round of the playoffs since 1999.

&8220;They had a good pitcher, and we couldn&8217;t seem to lay off the riseball,&8221; Vidalia head coach Gary Paul Parnham said. &8220;We worked on that the last two days, and it seemed like everything we worked on went right out the window. It seemed like they wanted it a little more than we did. Our inability to hit the ball today really showed up.&8221;

&8220;We lose two seniors off this year, and we&8217;re going to miss them. It&8217;s going to be tough to fill those two spots.&8221;

Jordan&8217;s run cut it to 5-1, and Chelsie McElwee had a chance to score when she singled with one out in the first and moved up to third on two wild pitches. But Rowe got the next two batters on strikeouts to end the inning.

But the damage was already done. The Lady Vikings had a critical error in the third that led to a two-run double from Kristen Worthington for the first runs of the game. Two errors in the fifth also opened the door for three runs.

The Lady Vikings botched a forceout in the third that would have been the third out of the inning. Instead, Worthington came up next and drilled a shot to the fence in left center to score Emily Allen and Rowe.

&8220;Defense has been hurting us all year,&8221; Jordan said. &8220;I was thinking about that the other night &8212; that we never lost in the first round. (We&8217;re) Not many juniors &8212; mostly sophomores and freshmen.&8221;

Things went from bad to worse in the fifth when an error allowed Allen to reach base with one out, Rowe singled and a fly ball from Worthington fell in in the outfield for a three-base error to allow Alle and Rowe to score.

Worthington scored on Laura Richards&8217; groundout for the 5-0 lead.

&8220;Defense let us down again,&8221; Parnham said. &8220;They&8217;ve been like that all year. We&8217;ve been averaging five errors a game, and the five errors hurt us. A lot of my players were sophomores. A lot of the sophomores &8212; and I had freshmen playing, too &8212; this is their first year of experience.&8221;

Jonesboro-Hodge is a young team, too, Bond noted. Rowe is the team&8217;s only senior, but now they&8217;ve got their sights on seeing how far they can go.

&8220;They&8217;ve got a fine young team,&8221; Bond said. &8220;We feel like we&8217;ve got a chance to go to the state tournament for the first time ever. We&8217;ve never been.&8221;