PETTICOAT JUNCTION, S.C -- As a softball player, Erica Green has received almost every individual award possible.
But this year the Silver Bluff Bulldog could be on the verge of achieving something that has evaded her grasp -- the South Carolina Class AA championship.
In her sixth season starting at shortstop for the Bulldogs, Green, who has been explosive as expected in the playoffs, is playing in the Lower State championship game for the first time.
Silver Bluff will be trying to claim the Lower State title today when it welcomes Andrews to the Bulldogs' field at 4:30 p.m. The Bulldogs need only one victory to move on, but must be defeated twice to be eliminated.
"That was a goal of ours when the season started," Green said. "The season is just starting to get fun. We all think we can do it. And we can if we keep playing hard."
Silver Bluff won its first district title this season, claiming District 6 honors with an 8-1 win over Gilbert. In the first inning, Green sparked the Bulldogs with a deep hit to center field that was highlighted with the shortstop circling the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
The 5-foot-10 shortstop has earned all-state honors in the last three seasons and her domination of Region 6-AA has pitted her as the three-time defending Region 6-AA player of the year.
For her acrobatics in the infield and explosive hitting at the plate, Green was selected to play in the 1999 North/South All Star game and is already entertaining a scholarship offer from Claflin College in Orangeburg, S.C.
"She's a leader on the field even though she's naturally a quiet person," Bulldogs coach Eric Hofstetter said. "She's progressed tremendously in her six years here. And her pure athletic ability will take her to the next level."
"I've definitely gotten a lot better since the seventh grade," Green said. "It's just a matter of practicing and wanting to get better. You have to want it."
Green is batting .409 this season and her seven home runs and 22 stolen bases are team highs. More importantly than a stellar regular season, the senior has torched opponents in the state playoffs and is a major reason the Bulldogs are 2-0 in Lower State double-elimination play.
Silver Bluff (22-2) traveled to face Batesburg-Leesville last Monday and was tied 6-all going into the ninth-inning. With Deann Brown on second base, Green stepped to the plate and lined a single to score Brown.
The senior then stole second base, raced to third on an error, and scored on all-state catcher Jayme Durand's sacrifice fly.
Green followed that up with a 1-for-3 showing in the second game, but made her presence felt more in the field with clutch defensive plays that allowed the Bulldogs to turn away favored Andrews 5-2.
"She's got the green light on base," Hofstetter said. "She's really aggressive and her speed allows her to cover a lot of ground. She knows the game and her recognizes her limitations, which are few."
One win today will put the Bulldogs in the state championship series and give Green and her cousin Shantea Green a chance to leave Silver Bluff as the Bulldogs' first state champions. Shantea is also a six-year starter at second base and earned all-region honors this season.
"It's ours to take," Shantea Green said. "This is what we've worked for. We're ready."
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