FLORENCE, S.C. – Hartsville’s dominant pitching appears set for at least a few more years.
After last year’s graduation of Taylor Watford and Liz Stroud, freshman Alyssa Poston has stepped in. On Thursday, she pitched a two-hitter while striking out 11 batters during the Red Foxes’ 5-0 win at South Florence on the Bruins’ senior day.
“Wow! I didn’t know she had that many,” Hartsville coach Tommy Garrison said. “I call the pitches for her, and she hits most of them. Every now and then, though, she’ll miss a spot and make me mad. But she did well tonight.”
So did the Red Foxes’ lineup as it steadily built the lead in this meeting of two region championship teams. Abi Stokes went 3 for 4 with a double and two RBI, and Emily Woodham went 2 for 4 with a double and RBI.
“I told them if we could get one run per inning, we would win,” Garrison said.
Blaze MacArthur's RBI single in the first made it 1-0, then Stokes' RBI single made it 2-0 in the second.
Woodham’s RBI double occurred in the third, and Stokes hit her RBI double in the sixth. Then against losing pitcher Sydney Jacobs in the seventh, Brittney Cothran drew a bases-loaded walk to account for the final score.
That mentality toward scoring displays Garrison’s confidence in his freshman pitcher.
“(Poston) does well for us, she’s thrown a no-hitter,” Garrison said. “So she had a good year for us. We kept her on J.V. last year to get her more time on the mound. She threw well enough last year to be on varsity, but we just had two great pitchers last year and didn’t have any place to put her.”
To illustrate how impressive Hartsville’s pitching has been, consider this: Watford and Stroud – who guided Hartsville to consecutive Class 4A state runner-up finishes -- were even left to carry on the tradition of excellence after Cayla Drotar – who pitched the Red Foxes to Class 3A state crowns in 2012 and ‘16, along with two runner-up finishes – graduated and is now a star at the University of South Carolina.
For now, Poston is the one batters are trying to figure out.
“(Poston) did exactly what we told our batters she’d do, but our batters pretty much refused to make any adjustments to it,” said South coach Bobby Jones, whose team is 20-2. “When you don’t make adjustments to that, that’s what happens.”
South Florence, in the 5A tournament starting Tuesday, will host an opponent that has not been determined.
Hartsville, meanwhile, will enter Crescent’s tournament this weekend with an 18-0 record before the Red Foxes enter the Class 4A postseason Tuesday.
Garrison likes his team’s chances.
“Every year we lose a pitcher, they think we’re in rebuild mode,” he said. “But it seems like we always pick one up. We’ve had a bunch of girls who have come up big. We find ways to win. We’ll steal a base, steal home. We find a way to win.”