An old sports saying is that offense sells tickets but defense wins championships. Tuesday, the Marlboro Academy softball team proved it could do both.
The normally prolific Marlboro offense was uncharacteristically quiet but the Lady Dragons played excellent defense, claiming their third state championship in six years.
The Lady Dragons held Pee Dee Academy to one hit and defeated the Eagles 2-0 to claim the South Carolina Independent Schools Association Class AA state championship.
"I'm just so excited for our girls," said head coach Boyd McLaurin. "This wasn't an easy series and we had to overcome some obstacles to get both wins."
"Both teams played very sound defense and got terrific pitching. We were able to manufacture a couple of runs each day and that was the difference," he said.
Sophomore Jenna Greene struck out six Pee Dee batters while allowing just one hit and two walks in getting her second shutout victory in as many days.
Pee Dee's Bailey Elvington was nearly as good, allowing just five hits and a walk, while striking out three Dragons.
The Eagles actually had the first scoring opportunity in the game. After a walk and single, the home team had two runners on with two outs. However, a pop fly caught by first baseman Laney McLaurin ended the threat.
The Dragons finally got on the board in the top of the next inning. Abigail Ridge smashed a one-out double to left field. Ragan Liles followed with a double just inside the third base line, scoring Ridge.
After reaching third on a passed ball, Liles scored on a sacrifice fly by Samantha Bryant.
The Dragons turned to their defense to finish the contest. A pop out and two ground outs retired the Eagles in the sixth.
A line out to the pitcher and two pop outs to third baseman Liles ended Pee Dee's hopes in the seventh, setting off a celebration at the pitcher's circle.
Abigail Ridge was 2 for 3 at the plate. Her sister, Jenna, was 1 for 3, as was Savannah Barber. Liles was 1 for 2 with a walk.
Exactly like Tuesday, in Monday's opening game of the series, the Dragons got two sixth-inning runs for a 2-0 shutdown win.
In fact, the two games were almost carbon copies, with the same players scoring in the same inning.
With two out in the sixth, Abigail Ridge drew a walk. Regan Liles followed with another base-on-balls.
Samantha Bryant made the Eagles pay with a double to left field. Ridge and Liles scored in what proved to be the game's only runs.
Green held the Eagles to just three hits and no walks. She struck out ten batters in the game.
Marlboro got only five hits, one each from Liles, Lindsay Hunter, Bryant, McLaurin and Barber. Ridge and Liles accounted for the only two walks issued by Pee Dee's Haley Scott.
"Our offense wasn't as potent as usual but Jenna was fantastic and our defense was solid. This is a great group of kids and I'm just thrilled for them," said McLaurin.
The Dragons reached the championship series by winning one bracket of the state qualifying tournament last weekend in Sumter.
Friday, the Lady Dragons smashed Thomas Sumter Academy, 16-3. Hunter was 2 for 3 and Birchfield 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs. Abigail Ridge had a grand slam.
Greene struck out five while allowing three hits.
Later Friday, the Dragons shut out Colleton Prep, 10-0. Hunter had a pair of home runs in the contest, while going 2 for 3.
Bryant and Birchfield also were 2 for 3. Greene had 11 strikeouts while giving up two hits.
Saturday, Williamsburg Academy upset the Lady Dragons, 1-0 by holding Marlboro to just one hit.
However, the Dragons defeated Williamsburg, 3-1 in the deciding game later in the day. Hunter and Abigail Ridge had triples in the contest. Greene struck out five but allowed 10 hits.
The Dragons finish the year with a 34-5 overall record, that included wins over Hartsville High School, Richmond County Senior High, Darlington High and Sumter High.