COLUMBIA -- The SCHSL Class 4-A softball championship series is well on its way to becoming the next season of Arrested Development.
This time it was mother nature, not an appeal, that put a halt to an increasingly strange matchup between Bluffton High School and Byrnes. After the Bobcats held on, 3-2, in a resumed Game 2, the two teams made it only as far as the fourth before lightning and prodigious hail put yet another halt to the proceedings.
Game 3, the deciding game in this series of unfortunate events, will resume Saturday at South Aiken High School with Byrnes leading 1-0 entering the top of the fourth inning, the second game in a row that will pick up from where it left off.
Coach Bill Ball said he has never experienced anything like this, not in about three decades of various coaching roles.
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"No way," Ball said with a mirthful laugh. "It is what it is."
Bluffton struggled to hold onto their 3-0 lead in the second game, with the Rebels scoring runs in the fifth and sixth to make it a photo finish. Courtney Smith got a strikeout with a runner at second to close out that game.
Game 3 started on shaky ground for Bluffton, the designated home team. The Bobcats committed a throwing error and a passed ball to hand Byrnes an early 1-0 lead. Then, the offense failed to drive in shortstop Jordyn Parker after her leadoff triple in the third.
Ball said he remains confident, despite the deficit.
"There were a couple of things we were doing that I liked," Ball said, while admitting that his team wasn't playing to its potential before the weather delay.
Smith, who struggled with a tight strike zone in the second game, said the odd re-start was "stressful," but thinks she will be more prepared for tomorrow's truncated contest, which will finally determine the state champion.
"Coming in, a brand new inning, I just have the mentality that it's the game that is still being played," Smith said. "There's plenty of time. I feel like tomorrow nothing's going to change. We're going to come out, we're going to be sharp."
The Bluffton team gathered in their bus for the duration of the bad weather, which featured near golf-ball-sized hail and plenty of lightning. Asked how they passed the time, Smith smiled.
"Eating," she said.
Game 3 will resume at 4 p.m. at South Aiken, one of the few places available to host on short notice.
This time one of these teams will be just four innings away from a state championship.
As long as Mother Nature complies.
Bluffton, softball, SCHSL, 4A, championship, Byrnes, Bobcats, South Aiken, Bill Ball, Rebels, Jordyn Parker, Courtney Smith