High School Sports

Bluffton doesn't get the breaks in district softball playoffs

Taylor Mercer remembered her most recent trip to Bluffton High School.

It was there, as an eighth-grader, Mercer earned the start for Georgetown during the 2010 district championship softball game. She would leave the game early, but the Bulldogs rallied to win.

After an early Bobcats run Saturday, Mercer was determined to stay engaged.

"I was just (wanting to) keep my head in it," said Mercer, now a sophomore pitcher. "I know I've got the defense behind me. I know we can hit. We can do it."

The Bulldogs backed up their pitcher, making plays on hard-hit balls the next five innings and not allowing another run until enjoying some insurance as Georgetown held on for a 3-2 victory in the Class 3-A playoffs. Georgetown plays host Wednesday to the District VII championship. Bluffton hosts the North Myrtle Beach-Cane Bay loser Monday at 6 p.m.

If Bluffton wins, it would earn a rematch at Georgetown, needing to defeat the Bulldogs twice Wednesday to earn the district title and advance.

"I've got a great team," Bluffton coach Bill Ball said. "I have a lot of confidence in them. We just have a little more work to do than we expected."

Kim Kerby was 2 for 4 with an RBI for Bluffton, and catcher Whitney Morrell drove in another run with a triple in the seventh but was stranded at third as the potential tying run. Courtney Smith pitched a complete game for Bluffton, allowing seven hits and striking out nine.

Right fielder Jackie Gray led Georgetown with three hits and an RBI. After a triple in the fourth, Gray scored on a passed ball to tie the game at 1.

After Georgetown grabbed the lead for good in the fifth, the Bobcats' attempts at a comeback were swallowed up. A line drive out at short. An over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field. A running grab in foul territory down the third-base line.

"It was getting a little frustrating," Ball said. "I don't know that we had too many bad at-bats."

A controversial sequence during the fifth inning could play a role in a possible rematch.

After Bulldogs second baseman and leadoff batter Crystyn Neely crossed the plate for what would have been the go-ahead run, the home plate umpire ruled Neely out due to interference. Georgetown coach Al Hutchinson said the umpire told him Neely made an aggressive move toward the catcher Morrell.

The Bulldogs took the lead on Gray's RBI single the next at-bat. But the Bulldogs' victory didn't settle the issue.

The interference call makes Neely subject to a two-game suspension. Hutchinson signed a protest on the field and said he planned to call the S.C. High School League on the way home Saturday.

"I thought one thing and the umpire thought the other," Hutchinson said. "Of course, he's in control and gets to make that call."

Georgetown 000 110 1 -- 3 7 1

Bluffton100 000 1 -- 2 6 3

WP: Taylor Mercer 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2K, 2 BB

LP: Courtney Smith 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 9 K, 2 BB

Top Hitters: Georgetown -- Jackie Gray 3 for 4, 3B, RBI. Bluffton -- Kim Kerby 2 for 4, RBI.