High School Sports

Thomas Heyward swept by Marlboro in SCISAA state softball finals

Bailey Jacobs knew which pitch she wasn't throwing Wednesday with the SCISAA Class 2-A softball championship on the line.

The Marlboro Academy pitcher's screwball to Thomas Heyward Academy standout Ashlie Layman the previous inning had been dumped over the left field fence. Jacobs wanted to stay away the next at-bat.

But with the Rebels forcing her hand, Jacobs struck out Layman looking at a curveball with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning to deliver the Dragons a 3-2 victory and their first softball title. Marlboro Academy swept the best-of-three series after a 4-3 victory at home Tuesday.

On the Rebels' home field, Marlboro Academy players posed for pictures at home plate and doused coach Boyd McLaurin with ice water.

"She was a really good hitter," said Jacobs, a junior who pitched all 14 innings for her team in the championship series. "And I won't take that away from her, but we got lucky and got that one strike."

Layman, a senior who helped Thomas Heyward to the 2011 title, launched a solo shot to lead off the sixth inning and pull the Rebels within one. And after Brielle Jungblut reached on a base hit in the seventh to load the bases, Layman stepped in again.

But the Rebels' tough luck started earlier. Chandler Cook led off the inning with a double but was called out later due to interference. And Thomas Heyward's previous attempts to manufacture a run had fizzled.

The Dragons' defense is the reason they won the title with the same group eliminated by Thomas Heyward in 2011, Jacobs said. The Rebels swept both games during the regular season.

Each of the teams' four meetings was decided by a run.

McLaurin said the Dragons learned during the earlier meetings how to defend the Rebels' top hitters. He wanted to keep the top of the Rebels order -- Bri Kelnhofer and Jungblut -- off the bases.

And the final at-bat, he hoped Jacobs could force a grounder to shortstop Katie McLaurin.

"Unbelievable," McLaurin said. "We didnt want to pitch her to a 3-2 count, I can tell you that."

Marlboro Academy scored all three of its runs in the top of the third before Layman settled in. She faced only 10 batters the final three innings to give the Rebels a chance.

But Jacobs was also allowing little, and her team's defense remained sharp. She retired the next three batters after Layman's leadoff home run in the sixth and pitched around leadoff hits in the bottom of the second, fourth and fifth innings.

"It wasn't just me, it was everybody," Jacobs said. "The whole team."

Thomas Heyward lost on its home field for the first time since Northwood Academy defeated the Rebels to win the 2010 state championship. Rebels coach Bob Layman will be back coaching many of the girls on his travel team in a couple weeks, but said Wednesday's feelings could linger.

"They wanted to win for each other," Layman said. "They're such a little sisterhood ... They stand up for each other."

Marlboro Academy 003 000 0 -- 3 3 0

Thomas Heyward 001 001 0 -- 2 9 1

WP: Bailey Jacobs 7 IP, 9 H, 4 K, BB

LP: Ashlie Layman 7 IP, 3 H, 5 K, 3 BB

Top Hitters: Thomas Heyward Academy-- Andrea Daring 2 for 3; Ashlie Layman 1 for 3, HR; Brielle Jungblut 2 for 4; Bri Kelnhofer 1 for 3, BB, SB.