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    (PHOTO BY THOMAS GRANT JR. | CHRONICLE) The Lexington baserunner is ruled out at homeplate.
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S.C. HIGH SCHOOL LEAGUE CLASS 5A SOFTBALL FINAL - 9-run 6th inning dooms Lexington in Game 1

Game 2 is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lexington High School

The Lexington High School softball team was 6 outs away from taking a 1-0 lead on the road Monday in the Best-of-3 state finals against J.F. Byrnes.

The Wildcats led as many as 6 runs and were seemingly in control of the contest.

Momentum rapidly shifted in the Bottom 6th. The Lady Rebels erupted for 10 unanswered runs, including 9 in the 6th inning, to take a stunning 12-8 victory over the Lady Wildcats.

Calee Smith’s grand slam off Hannah Kumiyama, who relieved Allie Light in the inning, capped the turnaround for J.F. Byrnes. Playing in its 3th straight state final, the Lady Rebels can clinch a 3rd state title in 6 years Wednesay in Lexington.

“We’ve had some big innings this year against some teams, but not of that caliber,” J.F. Byrnes head coach Brandi Aiken said.

It was the first loss for Lexington since March 29. In that contest, the Lady Wildcats gave up a 4-run lead for the 2nd time this season to defending Class 5A champion White Knoll in losing 8-7.

Lexington rebounded to win 16 straight games and advance to the state final for the first time since 2001. Now, the Lady Wildcats must do the same starting Wednesday at home to keep its championship hopes alive.

“There’s a reason why they play 3 games,” Lexington head coach Laurie Epps said. “It’s a 3-game series for a reason. We’ve got to bounce back and we’ve got to finish what we’ve start and I’m confident in what we have. We’ve got to come to play Wednesday and take it one piece at a time.

Lexington jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. An RBI double by Jessica Senn extended the lead to 5-0 in the Top 3rd before J.F. Byrnes scored 2 in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single by Kasey Widmyer and fielding error at third base.

The Lady Wildcats quickly rebounded in the Top 4th as Saige Stanley sent Widmyer’s 3-2 pitch over the leftfield fence to make it 6-2. Kumiyama added an RBI double and after Ashley Causey score on a wild pitch in the 5th, Lexington had a 8-3 advantage.

It would not score again. The Lady Rebels got a run off an error at shortstop in the Bottom 5th, then embarked their epic 6th inning.

Widmyer started the comeback with an RBI double off Light to make it 8-4. Molly Mathis followed with a 2-run double to cut the deficit to 8-6.

After an intentional walk to Kaylee Whitesides loaded the bases, a bunt single off Kumiyama in relief brought J.F. Byrnes to within 8-7.

Another infield error allowed the game-tying run to score for the Lady Rebels (28-3). This set things up for Smith to hit her 1st career home run which also served as the game-winner.

Lexington (24-4) threatened with 2 outs, but Whitesides got a strikeout in relief to end the game.

“Our kids always fight, so we always talk about playing to the last out,” Aiken said. “Obviously, against a team as good as (Lexington) with their pitching, I didn’t think we would battle back to go ahead. I just wanted them to put up a fight and stay in it because it’s just (Game) 1 in the series."

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