Jackets take Lower State


NORTH AUGUSTA --- Each fielder put up a lone finger, signaling the one out needed to end the inning.


Only this time things were a little different: It was in the seventh inning with a Lower State title on the line.

Sydney Seigler threw what would be her last pitch, and after Rachel Gregory fielded the ball at third, threw to first and the North Augusta softball team made history.

The Yellow Jackets won a Lower State championship for the first time as they beat Dutch Fork, 4-3, on Friday night at Riverview Park to advance to the Class AAAA state championship series.

"I was really nervous," said Gregory, who rebounded from a few errors to get the final out.

Seigler limited the Dutch Fork offense to one hit in the first five innings in the victory. That one hit left the park when Lacy Smith crushed the first pitch of the game for a solo home run.

The Yellow Jackets (27-6) responded by having their first six hitters post four singles and two walks in a three-run first inning off starter Hayley Elkins.

Both Kaitlyn Shreve and Kaylee Spires singled to left to start the rally, with Seigler walking before Payton Shiver's walk plated the first run.

Taylor Wilson then stepped to the plate and quickly fell behind 0-2. After hoping to "kill it," Wilson adjusted her approach and was instead wanting to simply make contact.

She battled back to make the count 2-2 -- Wilson also fouled off a couple pitches during the at-bat -- and then delivered the clutch two-RBI single to right to give North Augusta a 3-1 lead.

"I knew we had a full seven innings to play," Seigler said about falling behind early. "I know they can hit, but I knew we can hit, too."

The Yellow Jackets, winners of seven games in a row, didn't keep the lead for long.

Dutch Fork scored two runs in the third without a hit by taking advantage of a walk and some poor fielding.

North Augusta got the lead back as Seigler singled to begin the bottom of the third inning. With pinch runner Haley Burleson moving to second on a bad throw on a pickoff attempt and later to third when the ball got away from the catcher, Wilson recorded her third RBI with an RBI groundout.

Leading 4-3, Seigler held Dutch Fork without a run the rest of the game. She got some help from her defense when Shiver fielded a ball that landed in right field and threw it to first to rob Dutch Fork of a hit.

After the first two batters reached in the top of the seventh, Seigler got a popup on a 3-1 count, struck out the next hitter and then got the grounder to Gregory for the last out.

As the North Augusta players celebrated immediately following the play, coach Derrick Quinn kissed his wife through the fence.

Later, with his team sitting around him, Quinn told his players that while they had some gravy, now it's time for the dessert: a state championship.

"I'm speechless," Wilson said. "I'm just trying to soak it all in -- nobody thought we could make it this far."