With two outs and the bases loaded for Andrews in the top of the fifth inning in the Lower State championship against Latta on Friday, catcher Camie Samson stepped to the plate.
Less than a week earlier, In the fifth inning of the first game of the Lower State tournament against the Vikings, Samson hit a grand slam to give the Yellow Jackets a 5-0 advantage, securing a victory in the process.
But on Friday, the result wasn't the same.
Samson worked the count full before hitting a sharp groundball right at the third base bag, where Latta third baseman Rayne Nolan dove and blocked the ball, straddled third base and recovered the ball with her bare hand for the third out of the inning.
The play summed up the Yellow Jackets night, as the Vikings made several impressive defensive plays across two games to claim the SCHSL 2A Lower State championship at Andrews High School, advancing to the state championship series against Ninety Six High starting next week.
Prior to the championship series, Andrews was 3-0 against the Vikings this season, including the Lower State opener, and needed one more win to advance to the state championship. Latta, however, defeated the Yellow Jackets 3-2 in game one and 3-0 in game two to advance.
“It’s hard to beat a team four times,” Andrews head coach Mary Ellen Morris said. “It was ours to lose. We weren’t hungry enough and they were hungry. That matters in moments like this.”
The Yellow Jackets finish the season with a 20-6 record and finish just shy of their second straight state championship appearance.
Andrews senior pitcher Carli McCants took the loss in both games, allowing seven hits and one earned run in game one with eight strikeouts and six hits and one earned run with nine strikeouts in game two.
Arica Gandy earned two wins for Latta, pitching a combined 8.2 innings and allowing two runs on six hits and four walks. Jayla Jackson earned two saves, allowing just three hits and no runs combined.
Latta out-hit the Yellow Jackets 13-9 on the night, but it was defensive errors and baserunning blunders that doomed Andrews. In the two games combined, the Yellow Jackets committed six errors, leading to four unearned runs.
“They had timely hits and we didn’t,” Morris said. “We had errors we hadn’t seen from our girls all season.”
Twice, the Yellow Jackets were doubled up on the base paths with runners in scoring position. In game one, a Caroline Bourne line drive to left was caught just before the ball touched the grass and the fielder‘s throw to third to doubled-up Jaelyn Cannon, who served as a courtesy runner for pitcher Carli McCants.
In game two, Savannah Moore (running for McCants) reached second on a sacrifice bunt by Ansley Harrington, but rounded second base and was thrown out by Latta first baseman Jesselyn Bryant for the second out of the inning.
Game one: Latta 3 Andrews 2
Latta’s Lauren Webster doubled with one out and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt before scoring on an error by Andrews shortstop Faith Callaway, giving the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
McCants responded with a leadoff double in the bottom of the second, but the previously mentioned double play took Andrews out of the inning.
Latta would strike again in the fifth inning, when Jena Stutler singled to center field and reached third base on an error by center fielder Abigail Morris. Stutler scored on an RBI single hit by Jackson to extend the lead to 2-0. Jackson would score later in the inning on a sacrifice fly.
Andrews responded in the bottom of the inning when Dacie Smith laced a two-out double to centerfield to score Chloe Tisdale. Callaway would follow with an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-2.
The Yellow Jackets had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh when Caroline Bourne singled and Moore walked with one out. Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch to move into scoring position. Smith would strikeout for the second out and Callaway grounded out to end the game.
Game two: Latta 3 Andrews 0
Andrews was the visiting team in the second game. Samson tripled with two outs in top of the first, but was stranded at third. Latta responded in the bottom of the inning and scored on an RBI single by Riana Green.
The Yellow Jackets loaded the bases in the top of the fifth, put could not plate a run in the inning. Latta extended their lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the inning thanks to an RBI single by Jackson. Latta scored their final run in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Dixie Collins.
Andrews put runners on first and second in the sixth and seventh innings, but couldn’t connect with a timely hit down the stretch.