DAR-HART 4-16-19

Hartsville catcher Brittney Cothran, right, applies the tag on Darlington's Katelyn Church to preserve the Red Foxes' 2-1 lead in the fourth inning of Tuesday's game.

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Senior night. Region champions.

To the Hartsville Red Foxes, that’s music to their ears.

Once again – for the eighth consecutive season, actually – Hartsville's softball players celebrated a region championship. It is the program's 10th region title, overall.

This one was clinched in thrilling fashion as two clutch defensive plays at the plate preserved a 2-1 victory against Darlington.

“It’s very special,” Hartsville coach Tommy Garrison said. “Anytime you win region is special. But when you win it at home on senior night, it was just a really great time.”

Leave it to a senior, Brittney Cothran, to make those plays at the plate while her team led 2-1. She took one throw and tagged Katelyn Church before she reached home to end the top of the fourth. Then in the top of the seventh, she took another throw and tagged Shanaya Jackson out.

Garrison was pleased with theat first play at the plate, especially after the Falcons scored earlier that inning when Alayna Williamson reached on an error to score Naya Jones.

“It was a collision. I’m glad (Cothran) didn’t get called for blocking, but I think she gave (Church) enough of the plate to slide to and was able to come down on her and keep her off the plate,” Garrison said. “We’ve been working with (Cothran) getting down after she receives the ball, and it showed tonight that she has been working hard at practice.”

When Hartsville was at bat, no bat resonated louder than the one belonging to junior Abi Stokes, who hit two triples. The first one, hit in the bottom of the third, brought in the two runs that gave the Red Foxes a lead they would never relinquish after she barreled into third base.

“I was very nervous at that at-bat, but I came through and that was my first triple of the year,” Stokes said. “The ball was coming in fast, and I just had to get down and get to the base.”

Before the postseason begins next week, a close game like Tuesday’s could arguably help Hartsville experience the pressure they will face as they chase after the program’s first state title since 2016.

“We haven’t had many close games, especially against a team that rolled the ball as well as Darlington did,” Garrison said. “They put us in a lot of pressure situations.”

Garrison was just happy his team got the win.

“I don’t know if my heart could take another close win like this,” Garrison said with a laugh. “But it’s always good to battle that hard.”

The Red Foxes, however, have been battling like this for quite some time. This year is no different as they improved to 17-0 overall and 10-0 in Region 6-4A.

Garrison is just not sure if he wants to see that resilient Darlington team again, though.

“(Darlington) played really well,” Garrison said. “I’d hate to have to play them again.”

Prep Sports Writer

Scott covers prep sports, takes action photos and produces videos. An APSE award winner in sports writing, photography and videography, he played college tennis on scholarship and earned degrees from Young Harris College (Ga.) and Berry College (Ga.).

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