Heading into the postseason, the one thing that stood out to Bill Ball about his Bluffton High School softball team's recent play was the increased offensive production of his "slappers" -- Morganne Parker and Lauren Lowell -- who have found a way lately to get on base any way they can and cause problems for opposing pitchers.
Neither Parker nor Lowell hit the ball out of the infield in the seventh inning Friday, but they still managed to scratch across the only run of the night, lifting the Bobcats to a 1-0 win against Crestwood in their Class 3-A district playoff opener.
"The last couple games, those girls have been on fire and -- boom, boom -- they took care of business right there," Ball said.
Parker started the rally with one out in the seventh, getting on base when reliever Reba Gibbons didn't throw to first because she thought she had caught Parker's low line drive back to the mound. Neither umpire made a call, so Parker kept running and beat Gibbons' eventual throw.
Lowell then laid a bunt down the third-base line, but third baseman Brashia Booker snagged it when it appeared to be headed toward foul territory, and Lowell beat the throw to first.
By that time, Parker was headed for third, and first baseman Savannah Pope's throw wound up in left field, allowing Parker to score the winning run.
"I just saw coach Ball jump up, 'Go, go!,' so I just went," Parker said. "I had confidence in his call to let me go."
That was all the Bobcats needed, because their ace, Courtney Smith, was unhittable. Smith allowed just one single and struck out 12. She retired the last seven hitters she faced.
"They've got a good pitcher, I'll tell you," said Crestwood coach Rose Rhodes, whose team dropped to 8-10. "She's got a wicked curveball."
Knights starter Sharless Dingman was nearly as good. She allowed just two hits through six scoreless innings, but Rhodes said she began to tire and asked to be taken out before the seventh.
Ball said swinging the bats better will be imperative to staying in the winner's bracket of the double-elimination tournament when the Bobcats (17-3) host Hartsville or Berkeley at 4 p.m. today.
"We were real anxious," Ball said. "Since she didn't have much speed, we really thought we could hit the ball hard and were a little over-anxious, maybe swung at some bad pitches. We've got to be a little more patient and look for good pitchers."