Byrom's shutout powers Softball past Lee; SU stays alive
By Matt Green
COLUMBUS, Ga. -- The conference may not have known much about Kayla Byrom before Shorter's Friday elimination game against Lee, but Lady Hawks' head coach Al Thomas did. Thomas trusted his freshman in Shorter's biggest game of the year, and Byrom responded with the season's biggest performance.
Making her first postseason start, Byrom tossed a three-hit shutout to lead her Lady Hawks to an impressive 8-0 victory over the SSAC East Division top seed Lee in an elimination game at the 2012 Southern States Athletic Conference Softball Championship in Columbus.
Bre Johnson and Amanda Dailey homered and Charlsie Broome drove in two runs for the 12th-ranked Lady Hawks (44-10), who advance to a third straight elimination game on Friday against 24th-ranked Mobile at approximately 4:45 pm. Mobile sent Shorter to the consolation bracket with a 10-8 upset of the Lady Hawks in Thursday's first round.
Shorter, which defeated Emmanuel 9-1 on Friday morning in the first of a potential three-game day, kept the bats rolling against the Lady Flames (46-10, No. 10 NAIA Top 25 Poll), with whom Shorter had split four regular season meetings.
The Lady Hawks scored in each of the game's first three innings to race out to a 6-0 lead. Shorter pounded out 11 hits and had at least one base runner in every inning, consistently putting pressure on Lee starter Jessa Watts, who surrendered seven earned runs on 10 hits in five innings of work.
Broome led off the game with an infield single then eventually scored on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead before Jackie Castaneda came home on a successful double steal attempt to make it 2-0. Johnson led off the second inning with her second homer of the tournament and ninth of the year for a 3-0 lead. Johnson, who went 3-for-3 at the plate, added an RBI double as part of a three-run Shorter third that was capped with the first of two sacrifice flies from Broome, leaving Shorter ahead 6-0 after three.
Try as they might, Lee simply couldn't solve Byrom, who had appeared in only 13 games during the regular season and entered the tournament with a 4-2 record an 1.31 ERA. Shorter's other freshman hurler -- classmate and pitcher Maddie Bray won conference Co-Freshman of the Year honors earlier in the week -- gave up two hits in the first inning and worked out of a mini jam, but yielded only one hit over the final five innings of the game.
Byrom retired Lee in order in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings and finished with three strikeouts while walking none in an efficient 73-pitch outing.
Broome hit her second sacrifice fly of the game in the fifth for a 7-0 lead and Dailey gave Shorter the magic eight-run lead with a solo blast over the left center field wall in the sixth. Byrom took care of the Lady Flames in 1-2-3 fashion in the bottom of the sixth to end the game.
Should Shorter defeat Mobile, the Lady Hawks would play on Saturday morning at 10 am in yet another elimination game, this time against the winner of the Belhaven-Brenau matchup.