HAHIRA –– After a 7-1 loss at Brooks County earlier in the season, the Valwood softball team was out for revenge and took advantage of the chance to show the Trojans what they were all about.
The Valiants welcomed the Trojans to Hollis field on Senior Night and came out with a huge 7-0 victory.
Before the game, Valwood’s four seniors were honored. Ansley Bennett, Lindsey Browning, Clare Nijem and Natalie Rojas were joined on the field by their family and close friends. There were lots of smiles, lots of tears and lots of pictures as the four girls were recognized for their impact on the Valwood softball program.
“Lindsey and Clare were freshmen the first year I coached,” Valwood head softball coach Courtney Carter said. “I have watched them grow and develop as both players and young ladies from that first 0-12 season to winning three region championships. Ansley joined us her sophomore year and instantly improved the infield, the batting lineup, and the pitching staff. Lastly, Natalie joined us last year just when we needed someone to step in and fill a huge hole in the infield. I have been blessed to coach these girls.”
As far as the game goes, it was quick until the Valiants took a leap ahead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Freshman Graceigh Booth led off the inning with a hard hit single to center field. Later in the inning, with two outs, Mary Clare Martin singled sending Booth to third. With an overthrow to the catcher, Booth took home scoring the first run of the game. Three outs for the Trojans happened quickly bringing the game to the bottom of the fifth where three more runs were scored. Ranada Vinson led off the inning with a single and was moved to second by Darcee Brown’s sacrifice bunt. Three seniors –– Clare Nijem, Lindsey Browning and Natalie Rojas –– teamed up with Booth to bring the score to 4-0 in the fifth.
With a 4-0 lead, the Valiants did not quiet down. A leadoff single by senior Ansley Bennett, followed by a triple by freshman Ranada Vinson started the scoring for the Valiants for a third straight inning. Nijem’s third hit of the game followed by an error on a hard hit ball by Graceigh Booth concluded the scoring at 7-0.
Darcee Brown had a stellar performance on the mound allowing just two hits, two walks, and eight strike outs. In the second inning Brown, with the help of her teammates, completed the nearly impossible task with getting three outs on just three pitches in the inning.
The Valiants were led offensively by Nijem who was 3-3 on the day.
Nijem explained, “I went into the game knowing that we needed to bounce back from the loss we took from Brooks County in the beginning of the season. I told myself that I needed to step up as a senior and a captain and really play my hardest. I couldn’t be happier with the way the seniors and my team played and the victory we took tonight.”
Vinson and Booth had two hits each. Rojas, Martin, Browning and Bennett added one hit each.
The Valiants are now 12-2 on the season. They will face Tiftarea Academy in Chula on Oct. 8 and will return home Oct. 19 for the second round of the state playoffs. Their opponent is will be determined at a later date.