Spring Garden’s Steward stymies Ragland in the circle

Spring Garden pitcher Abbey Steward delivers to a Ragland batter during the Lady Panthers’ season-opening softball game on Monday. Steward didn’t allow a hit through five innings in the Lady Panthers’ 6-4 win. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

SPRING GARDEN – Spring Garden softball coach Ann Welsh wanted to work junior pitcher Abbey Steward into the new season slowly, since she is just coming off basketball season.

Steward proved she was more than ready to begin her next sport on Monday evening against Ragland. She tossed a no-hitter through five innings before giving way to senior Kylie-Grace Wood. Steward finished with a pair of walks and eight strikeouts in the Lady Panthers’ 6-4 season-opening victory.

“I certainly didn’t want to hurt her arm,” Welsh said of limiting Steward’s work by design. “We had kind of made plans for both of them to pitch as much as they can this week and work both of them in. That was our plan to start with.”

The Lady Panthers (1-0) took an early 2-0 lead on Wood’s two-run single to right off Ragland pitcher Jesslyn Carlisle in the bottom of the first inning. They added three more runs fourth to take a 5-0 lead.

Eighth grade catcher Maggie Jarrett blasted a solo home run to left center with one out to get the inning started. Eighth grade second baseman Ace Austin added a double to right center and later score on a double steal. Eighth grade center fielder Avery Steward brought home another run on a bloop double to left.

Steward was pulled in favor of Wood in the top of the sixth. Wood found herself in a bit of trouble after loading the bases with no one out. She hit center fielder Samantha Day-Jones to lead off the inning, then walked catcher Campbell Adams and shortstop Jewel Ferguson. The Lady Purple Devils capitalized by scoring two runs on a fielder’s choice at short.

Wood eventually got of the inning without any further damage.

After Spring Garden tacked on another run on a triple to right by shortstop Neely Welsh to make the score 6-2, Ragland gave the Lady Panthers a finish in the top of the seventh.

Once again, the Lady Devils loaded the bases with one out and scored two runs on a fielder’s choice, but Wood struck out Carlisle to end the game.

“KG (Wood) kept her composure after she came in and let her defense work for her,” Coach Welsh said. “Our defense needs to learn some pressure. I want to come out with a win, but they need to learn to come through those kinds of situations too.

“We’ve got several people who have changed positions this year. We know a few things we’ve got to work on.”

Avery Steward went 2-for-3 with a double. Neely Welsh tripled and walked. Jarrett homered and Austin doubled. Wood and left fielder Abbie Woods also finished with a hit apiece.

Left fielder Addison Campbell and Carlisle had the lone two hits for Ragland. Adams and Ferguson walked two times apiece. Carlisle suffered the loss and finished with four strikeouts.

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