Sanford Gets Game-Winning Hit in 1st At-Bat as Orange Softball Wins Opener vs. E. Alamance 6-5

Updated: March 8, 2018

In theory, the defending 3A State Champion that returns six starters from last year wouldn’t have to face very much adversity.

Then there’s reality, which is what the Orange softball faced nose-to-nose to start its season on Wednesday night.

As they’ve done so often over the past three years, the Lady Panthers found a way, thanks to a game-winning hit from a freshman catcher in her first varsity at-bat——who wasn’t even supposed to be called up from the JV team until the day before.

Alaysia Sanford poked a one-out, bases-loaded infield hit behind second base to score Jayden Hurdle in the bottom of the seventh inning for the game-winning hit as Orange defeated Eastern Alamance 6-5 at Orange Softball Field on Wednesday night. It was the third time in the last three years that Orange defeated the Eagles by one run.

Earlier in the inning, the Eagles tied the game after Morgan Lawson doubled off the left field wall and scored off a dropped ball hit by catcher Haley Batista.

Sanford will go down as the replacement for North Carolina State Gatorade Player of the Year Mia Davidson, who set the state record for career home runs last season. The thing is, Sanford not only wasn’t supposed to play on Wednesday, she wasn’t even supposed to start the season at varsity.

Freshman Hunter Balog was supposed to start on Wednesday, but she was hit in the head by a practice ball inside Orange’s practice gym on Tuesday. Instead of filling the role of Davidson, Balor was placed in concussion protocol. So interim head coach Henry Horn, on the job for all of five days, called up Sanford on 24 hours notice.

It was Orange’s first game since the resignation of head coach Eddie Davidson, who informed the squad last Thursday of his departure. Three weeks ago, Davidson’s wife Christina received a promotion with the National Association of Letter Carriers, which required a relocation to Washington, D.C.

Hurdle, a sophomore who replaced starter Alyssa Hellman in the third inning, earned the victory in relief for the Panthers. Hurdle, who started the game at first base, finished 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.

Orange bolted out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Freshman shortstop Emma Puckett doubled off the left field wall. The next batter, Alysann Lloyd, also doubled into the left field corner to score Puckett. Hurdle bounced a  1-0 fastball to right field to score Lloyd. Designated hitter Alisha Pettiford floated a single to right field, plating Hurdle.

Eastern Alamance tied the game with three runs in the third inning. Madison Harley, batting ninth, led off with a double off the left field wall. Lawson singled to right and Haleigh Palmer walked to load the bases. Caris Faucette knocked in Harley with a grounder to third baseman Olivia Ruff, who tried to throw Harley out at the plate. After Lawson scored on a wild pitch, Cameron Bass singled to right center to drive in Palmer and tie the game.

In the 5th, Eastern Alamance got its only lead of the game when Batista homered to left-center off Hurdle, one of only two hits that she surrendered.

In the bottom of the frame, Orange got the lead back off of two unearned runs. Hurdle started with a leadoff walk, then Pettiford attempted a bunt, which led to a throwing error. In the subsequent at-bat, Ruff also bunted, leading to another throwing error that scored Hurdle. Left fielder Hayley Funk hit a sacrifice fly to score Pettiford and give Orang a 5-4 lead.

In her first varsity game, Puckett went 2-for-4 with a double.

Orange will travel to Mebane to face Eastern Alamance again on Saturday afternoon at 1.

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