UNION COUNTY — For the second consecutive year the Union County Lady Yellow Jackets hosted the North Augusta Lady Yellow Jackets in the 4A Upper State Softball Championship. These two teams met earlier this week with Union claiming a 1-0 win over North Augusta. It would take two games to decide the Upper State champion.
The first inning started off good for North Augusta as the lead off batter Karly Heath doubled over the Union left fielder’s head. Union pitcher Bailey Betenbaugh then stuck out the next two North Augusta batters, before Heath stole third base. Heath would be stranded at third as Katie Wright flew out to left to end the inning. Union County would answer with just one hit in the first as Katelyn Petty singled with one out before Heath got Betenbaugh to line-out to third and then struck out Abbie Valentine to end the inning.
North Augusta would get the lead off batter on again in the second inning as Shaq Bosket reached on an error by the Union shortstop. Bosket would steal second in the inning, but Betenbaugh, the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in South Carolina, would strikeout the next two batters to end the inning. Union County was retired in order in the second with Heath striking out two in the inning.
Heath would single in the third inning with one out and would steal her second base of the game as she took second when the next batter struck out swinging for out number two. Betenbaugh would then get Kiersten Myers swinging for out number three. Heath would retire Union County in order to end inning number three. Through three innings Heath struck out five Union batters and only surrendered one hit.
Haidyn Hutto would single for North Augusta with two outs in the fourth inning, but would be stranded there as Makayla McManus would ground out to end the top half of the fourth. Betenbaugh would single to left center with one out in the bottom of the fourth and her courtesy runner would steal second with catcher Abbie Valentine at the plate, but she would remain there as Heath would induce a infield pop-up to end the Union threat in the home half of the fourth.
Annabel Hurst would single in the fifth with one out to bring up Heath who was two for two so far in the game, but she would fly-out to right field for out number two. Betenbaugh would then get North Augusta catcher Emily Ayers to strikeout for the third time in the game to end the threat in the fifth inning.
Katie Wright singled for North Augusta with one out in the sixth, but the Betenbaugh would strikeout Bosket looking then get Hutto to pop out to end the inning. Katelyn Petty hit an infield single for Union with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to bring up Betenbaugh, who struck out to end the sixth.
The bottom of the North Augusta Lineup was unable to produce a base runner in the top of the seventh going down in order to give Union County a chance to win it with one run in the home half of the seventh. However, Heath was able to retire Union County in order in the seventh to force extra innings.
Heath would pop-up to start the eighth for North Augusta, and Ayers would single and advance to second on a sacrifice bunt by Myers. Wright would then pop-up on the infield and the ball was dropped by Grady for Union County and that error allowed the runner to score from second to give North Augusta a 1-0 lead. Bosket would ground out to end the eighth inning. Grady for Union County lead off the bottom of the eighth with an infield bunt single, advanced to third on two sacrifice bunts, but were unable to get the run across and North Augusta claimed Game One, forcing a deciding game two.
Betenbaugh would end game one with ten strikeouts, allowing five hits and no earned runs in eight innings pitched. Petty lead the way for Union County with two hits in the contest.
Bailey Betenbaugh pitched Game Two for the Union County. She struck out five North Augusta batters over seven innings, allowing only two hits, two runs, and only one of those runs was earned.
Union County scored three runs on five hits in the contest. Kristin Kicidis and Naquandria Ray both had two hits for the Yellow Jackets. Ray also had two runs batted in, and Rebecca Lee also had an RBI.
Karley Heath pitched for North Augusta seven innings with 10 strikeouts, 5 hits, 3 runs, and two of these runs were earned.
Union County will advance to the State Championship to face Hartsville for the fifth consecutive year. The State Championship series is a best of three series. Game One of the best of three series will be played Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Timken Sports Complex in Union. Game Two is scheduled to be played on Wednesday in Hartsville. If necessary Game Three would be played on a neutral site on Friday.