Polk softball upsets Swain

Published 2:48 pm Friday, March 25, 2011

Cassie Couch ignites a third-inning rally with an RBI double as Polk upsets top ranked Swain County Thursday, March 24. (photo by Dan Hecht)

In the most highly anticipated game of the season, the Lady Wolverines played host Thursday, March 24 to Swain County High School, the top ranked 1A team in the state.
The powerhouse squad from Bryson City rolled into Columbus with an imposing resume. The Lady Devils have traveled to the state championship tournament in each of the last five years, boast three players hitting over .600, and have, in senior Shelby Parker, a future Division I college pitcher on the mound. At the very least, Swain was expected to give Polk its first major test of the season.
In a surprise move, Swain head coach Toby Burrell opted to start his number two pitcher, Richelle Jenkins, in place of staff ace Parker. As Burrell explained after the game, the strategy behind the decision was based on how best to counter Polk County’s offensive style. Jenkins, a drop-ball specialist, figured to match up well against the Lady Wolverines’ bunting, slapping method of play.
Polk ace Jamie Hrobak, fresh off of her perfect game performance against Mitchell, started strong, retiring the first three Swain batters on strikeouts, and after Alyssa Montgomery singled to drive home Amber Lynch in the bottom of the first, the Lady Wolverines found themselves with a 1-0 lead.
After a scoreless second frame, Swain’s offense came to life. Leadoff hitter Nikki Cody legged out an infield hit, followed by a Brittany Shuler single to left. Two batters later, Parker, hitting from the number five spot, lashed a double down the left field line past the outstretched glove of Kara Garvin, and the Lady Devils found themselves on top by a score of 2-1.
Swain’s lead quickly evaporated in the bottom of the third, however, as Cassie Couch stepped to the plate with two out and launched a booming double into deep left field, scoring Lynch to knot the game at 2-2.
Following a base hit by Garvin, Shea Wheeler stepped up and stroked a single to right center, scoring Couch from third. After Garvin scampered home on a wild pitch, Polk found itself back on top after three.
Though Swain ace Parker relieved Jenkins in the fourth and held Polk scoreless for the rest of the game, the damage had already been done. The Lady Devils were unable to score again against a tenacious Polk defense, which closed out two of the final three innings on double plays, and the game ended with the Lady Wolverines on top by a score of 4-2.
“I was really proud of how our girls responded with runners on base,” said Polk head coach Jeff Wilson, citing in particular the excellent defensive play of Lynch, Montgomery and Hrobak.
The Lady Wolverines improved to 7-1 on the season, as Hrobak notched her 36th career win, striking out 11 while walking just one.

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