Waves of cheers, chants and applause flooded Stanley Butler Softball Field as the Lady Flames emerged victorious in their first two home games of the season against Lincoln Memorial University. The doubleheader posted a gutsy 4-3 win—followed by a remarkable 9-1 win for the second.
While pitcher Abby McKinney started her day in the circle, the visiting team's fans spouted their encouragement from the dugout as each of LMU’s players approached the plate. Only allowing a single run, the Lady Flames combatted the opposing team’s volume with cheers of their own as Taylor Moran drove the ball to the right field fence, sparking the Lady Flames' successful day.
It was a game of big-flys in the first game, as both teams’ bats were hot, sending a total of three balls over the fence and keeping the crowd engrossed in the action. While two of the homers were credited to Lincoln Memorial, the third was hit by Lady Flame freshman Maddie Davenport, who sent the ball straight over center field. This powerful stroke was Davenport’s first NCAA hit.
Assistant Coach Ian Raymond explained that this hit was crucial in securing Davenport’s confidence as she begins her first year in college sports.
“Maddie’s thing as a freshman is just going out there and being able to play without fear of failing,” Raymond said. “I think what you’ll see now is that she’s going to be a lot more open with her hitting.”
Davenport’s mother Connie, who traveled from Georgia to watch the game, echoed the assistant coach’s comments, revealing her daughter’s nervousness leading up to the start of the season. She communicated her confidence that this first hit would help break through that mental barrier, which her daughter confirmed through an expression of relief.
“I’ve been struggling a lot. I just asked coach yesterday, ‘How do I just go up and swing the bat?’ She was like, ‘Just swing the bat.’ So I did,” Davenport said. “I feel really good. It feels like the weight is off my shoulders.”
Throughout the first game, both teams scored back and forth, closing out the seventh inning with a 3-3 tie. The Lady Flames held off LMU in the top of the 8th, and a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Kayla Louie in the botton half of the inning broke the tie, allowing Zoe Miller to cross home plate.
“I feel like we started a little slow,” Louie said. “Our hitting could’ve been better. But we just kept fighting, and we got it.”
When the players returned to the field for the second game, the cheers were scattered more sporadically throughout as everyone on field, bench and bleachers became absorbed in the gameplay. Pitcher Erika Greek, a junior transfer, consistently brought batters up to a full count before faithfully delivering a third strike.
While the first few innings were relatively slow, bearing only a single run for each team, the pace quickened as Stevie Baird doubled in the bottom of the fourth, bringing in two more runs for the home team. In the same inning, with two runners on base, Abby McKinney hit a home run, totaling six runs for the team. Maddie Davenport, who shared the experience of hitting a homer in the previous game, claimed McKinney as her mentor.
“She is amazing. She also plays left field like me, and she’s a lefty batter like me,” Davenport said. “If I’m not in the game, she’s like, ‘Hey, stay up. You’re awesome. You’re going to get your opportunity.’”
The team brought in another run in the fifth, continuing to keep Lincoln Memorial at one run. In an attempt to score two more runs against the opposing team and invoke the mercy rule, Leigh Beatenbough pinch hit for Lily Hatcher in the sixth inning with bases loaded. Coach Raymond labeled Beatenbough the most seasoned player, as this is her fourth year on the team, disclosing that the senior’s role will likely be as an opener or closer in the games to give the team an extra boost. Beatenbough was successful in doubling, effectively ending the game with a score of 9-1.
The Lady Flames will return to Stanley Butler Field on Wednesday, Feb. 21 against Miles College following the Charger Chill Out and GSC Opening Weekend Festival in Alabama. Including the final game of the Gulf Coast Invitational, a shutout against Barry University, the team now holds a three-game winning streak, which the players will look to build on approaching conference play.