Originally created 05/17/02

Bulldogs one game from first state title

Now, it's a mental game for Silver Bluff.

Forget about physically hitting the ball - although that needs some work too. Forget about solid pitching and outstanding defense. Forget about a 30-4 record this season.

None of that stuff, Lady Bulldogs softball coach Eric Hofstetter said, matters today. None of that stuff will have an effect on whether Silver Bluff can win its first Class AA state title against Crescent at 6 p.m. at Greenwood High School.

The only way the Lady Bulldogs can win today - and push last year's title game disaster out of their minds for good - is to be tough. Not at the plate, but in their minds.

"It is a mental game," Hofstetter said. "In the seventh inning (of Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Crescent-, we came in the dugout saying we knew we could hit the ball. And we did. We need to come in with that attitude from the first inning on."

Easier said than done when Lady Tigers ace Ashlea Burdette, who has allowed only eight Silver Bluff hits in the series, is working her herky-jerky delivery to perfection.

But the Lady Bulldogs proved they can hit her, as evidenced by four hits in the final two frames of Wednesday's eight-inning affair.

That, pitcher Bridget Loudermilk said, will help Silver Bluff's psyche.

"The last two innings, we started hitting the ball," said Loudermilk, the team's leading hitter who's 1-for-6 in the series. "That should give us some momentum."

Said Hofstetter: "We took 2 1/2 hours of batting practice (Tuesday), so it's not like we didn't practice. We just have to do it on the field. We want Thursday to be more of a mental practice. We'll get to see how we deal with adversity."

Hopefully for the Lady Bulldogs, they'll handle it better than they did last year. After winning the first contest of last season's championship series against Crescent, the Lady Tigers (28-2) pulled out the last two to win their 13th state title in 15 years.

Still, Crescent coach Gary Adams wants his team to forget about last year.

"It'll come down to who makes the plays and who does the little things," said Adams, who's led the Lady Tigers to 17 South Carolina crowns. "To get to play another game, that's all we were looking for."

Loudermilk, meanwhile, will look to lead her team past a potential heartbreaker for the second-straight year.

"We just have to come out and hit the ball better, because our defense has been good," Loudermilk said. "It's going to be tough. We just have to come out and be mentally focused."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.


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