Spartanburg Sports Report

Lady Rebels Earn District Championship

For the fourth time in five years, the Lady Rebels called themselves district champions. Hosting Laurens, Byrnes dominated a 3-0 victory in the championship game of the District 2, 5A softball playoffs bracket.

From the very beginning of the game, Byrnes looked poised to take advantage of every opportunity to come their way.

Despite not recording a hit until the fourth inning, the Lady Rebels put two runs on the board in the first three frames. Both were scored by Tatum Arboleda.

In the bottom of the first, Arboleda reached on an error by the first baseman. There seemed to be some confusion as to whether she was safe or out. She noticed the umpire had not called her out and raced to second base in the confusion.

“Honestly I didn’t know what happened. I just knew something hit me in the head,” Arboleda explained. “And then I turned around and I just went, and they were all looking around.”

Arboleda advanced to third on a Christa Whitesides bunt. Kasey Widmyer then hit into a fielder’s choice, with the play coming home to get Arboleda out. The ball arrived in time, however, the ball was dropped, and Byrnes led 1-0.

Arboleda also score the team’s second run in the third inning. She was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a bunt. With two outs, Haven Pesce’s fly ball to left field sent Arboleda flying around the bases. Octavia Johnson got into position to record the out but couldn’t hold on to it. Arboleda scored easily.

Defensively, the Lady Rebels were stellar. Widmyer only faced two batters above the minimum. She forced a good combination of groundouts and flyouts while also striking out three batters.

The Raiders’ best opportunity to get a run or two back came in the sixth inning.

Jillian Sward was hit by a pitch and then advanced to second when Vanessa Harshaw walked in the next at bat. With two on and no outs, Cassy Plaia flew out to left field but couldn’t advance the runners.

Bailey Gibbs was up next and also hit a fly ball to left. The ball looked like it would fall for a hit, so Sward took off from second trying to score. However, Hayden Bradley raced in to make the catch and quickly threw the ball in to second for the double play.

“They are always behind me. Especially the outfield making diving plays. The ones they dive and catch would definitely be runs on the board if they didn’t give all of their effort. And the infield always, I know if it’s on the ground I always know I’m good,” said Widmyer of her defense.

Byrnes’ final run came in the fourth inning. It wasn’t scored by Arboleda, but it was knocked in by the catcher. Parker Birch led the inning off with a single and advanced after two more singles, by Bradley and Kassie Rimel, loaded the bases with one out. Arboleda hit a sacrifice fly to left field that allowed Birch to score easily.

Lady Rebels coach, Brandi Aiken credited her team’s focus on defense and offense for seeing them through to the next round of the playoffs.

“I think doing the little things allowed us to win because we didn’t have the best night at the plate, but we were still able to stay in the ballgame and just make sure we were doing what we need to do. You can play 0-0 as long as you need to as long as you’re not the ones making the mistakes on defense,” Aiken said.

Byrnes will host JL Mann on Saturday in the next round of the playoffs.