Lady Cavaliers win third straight game

Apr. 18—There is no way Southern Lee can catch Scotland atop the Sandhills Athletic Conference standings in softball. However, a state playoff berth and even a first-round home game are still in the realm of possibility as the Lady Cavaliers enter the homestretch of the regular season.

Southern came into Tuesday's road game at Hoke County on a two-game winning streak, but the Lady Cavaliers had won two home games in a row over teams with losing records. This one was a bit different, as Hoke is a 4A team that entered the contest with a 10-6 record.

The Bucks were hoping for 11-6 by the end of the day, and they got it. Just not the way they wanted. That was the final score that Southern beat them by.

The Lady Cavaliers (8-7, 5-5 SAC) rode home runs from Albani Hooker and Natalie Guevara to the victory, as the duo drove in seven runs between them and Southern never trailed in wrapping up the season sweep of the host Bucks. The win moved Southern to the No. 21 position in the NCHSAA RPI. The top 32 make the playoffs, and barring a collapse, the Lady Cavaliers should have a spot. But if they finish strong, advancing into the top 16 would put them at home for the first round of the playoffs.

Southern meant business right out of the gate. Maggie Lucas led off by working the count full before walking. Hooker was less patient, attacking the first pitch with a single. One out later, Guevara lined a double into left field to drive both in for a 2-0 lead. Guevara then scored on a Delaney Maria single.

Hoke got a run back in the bottom half of the inning and had the bases loaded with two out, but Ava Sharpe fielded a grounder at third base and fired home for the force to end the inning.

Guevara struck again in the third, again crushing a double into left field with one out to score Hooker, who had opened the inning with a walk. Hoke got two runs in the bottom of the inning after Hooker briefly lost the plate as the pitcher and walked three in a row, but then she buckled down and got back-to-back strikeouts to preserve the 4-3 lead.

Sharpe led off the Southern fourth with a single. Lucas walked on a full-count pitch with two out and Hooker made the Bucks pay for that, crushing a ball over the left-field fence to extend Southern's lead to 7-3. Guevara's homer came leading off the fifth for an 8-3 lead. It became 9-3 after Sydney Bisson and Brooke Simmons each doubled later in the inning.

In the sixth, Lucas had a leadoff single and Carrie Ellen Bryan doubled with one out. This brought up Guevara, but the Bucks clucked, at least in the eyes of the Lady Cavalier fans, and intentionally walked her. Maria drove in one run with a groundout, but Southern didn't get any more after a runner was thrown out at the plate on a Bisson single.

Lucas drove in more more in the seventh with a groundout. Hoke scored three times in the bottom of the inning but it was too little, too late.

Bisson, Simmons and Hooker all had two hits, while Guevara went 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, and four RBI. The senior catcher, known as "Big Bat Nat" by her teammates, is now hitting .500 this season with six doubles, six home runs, and has an OPS of 1.579 with 32 RBI and 22 runs scored in 15 games.

Hooker went the distance on the mound, allowing five hits while striking out eight, and allowing just three earned runs.

Southern travels to Seaforth on Monday night.