FLORENCE, S.C. — Friday was well worth the wait for the Florence-Darlington Tech softball program.
Just ask its founder and coach, Heber Watson, who has been the guiding force since its inception 15 years ago.
“Long time coming with being here,” Watson said of the opening of Chandler Burns Field. “So it’s a really rewarding thing that we finally have our own park. I think the kids appreciate it.”
As satisfying as Friday’s start was, Watson was equally pleased with how the day finished as the Stingers picked up a pair of victories.
Two-out hitting and some timely home runs helped FDTC open Region X play with a sweep of USC Sumter by scores of 6-3 and 4-3.
The Stingers (3-1, 2-0) return home Saturday to face Spartanburg Methodist College in another twinbill starting at 1 p.m.
“We’ve got hitters,” Watson said of his team’s performance Friday. “Looks like they were maybe a little jittery today with it being opening day at home. But we’ve got a good group of hitters that should do well this year.
“We didn’t show it all that much today, but we came through with some clutch hits.”
In fact, seven of the 10 runs Tech scored came with two down, including five in the opener.
Anna Carolina Suggs picked up the first hit and RBI for the Stingers with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the third to put Tech up 2-1.
Arianna Daniels added an RBI knock in the fourth, and with FDTC leading 4-1 in the fifth, catcher Jada Parsons had the honor of blasting the first home run at the new field with a two-run shot to left.
“I was just looking for my pitch, because I had been struggling before that,” Parsons said. “I just connected with it. That was nice — pretty memorable to have the first home run ever hit on the field.
“Those were two close games. We were a little shaky, but we’re going to get there.”
Another long ball helped the Stingers take a late lead in Game 2. After they were tied 2-2, Jaylah McCormick hit one that just cleared the center field fence to put FDTC on top. Suggs followed three batters later with an RBI double to make it 4-2.
Suggs finished with three runs batted in on the afternoon along with Daniels, who had a pair of two-out RBI singles in the second contest.
“That home run in the sixth was a big one from Jayla, and Arianna has been hitting the ball really well,” Watson said.
The Stingers also got strong pitching performances from three different players in the circle. Courtney Watson went the distance in the opening game, allowing just three runs, one earned, on five hits with four strikeouts. She tossed a trio of 1-2-3 innings and allowed just a single baserunner in two others.
In Game 2, Serrah Ballard worked her way out of a couple of tight spots to hold the Fire Ants scoreless for four innings. She left after surrendering just two runs, one earned, on seven hits with three strikeouts.
Suggs came on in relief with no outs in the fifth and allowed just a lone run on three hits the rest of the way.
“She did a good job today,” Watson said of Suggs. “This was her first opportunity to pitch at the college level, so she came in and did well.”