Lafayette falls in state title game to Liberty County


Hornets senior Lindsay O'Steen takes her final at-bat for Class 1A runner-up Lafayette, which was attempting to repeat as state champions against Liberty County. (Photo submitted by Jack Howdeshell)

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 8:42 p.m.

VERO BEACH — Lafayette's quest to become the first girls program in Class 1A to win back-to-back state titles in two different sports fell short on the softball fields at Vero Beach Sports Village on Thursday.

Bristol Liberty County, ranked No. 1 by Miracle Sports and the team that lost to the Hornets in the 1A state final in volleyball back in November, got its revenge of sorts, knocking off the defending state champions 3-0 in the 1A state softball final.

Ironically, it was Lafayette that blanked the Bulldogs on the volleyball court nearly six months ago, 3-0, in Kissimmee.

The Hornets (20-6) never got on track offensively, held to just two hits by Liberty County senior pitcher Kayla Johnson, who also had six strikeouts and only one walk. She struck out the side in the second inning and faced the minimum 15 batters after the first inning, getting a double play in the third after Ashley Freeman's bunt single.

Senior Carly Sapp had three of the Bulldogs' eight hits, with a pair of triples and one run scored. Sapp, who went 3-for-3 in Wednesday's 14-3 rout of Pierson Taylor in the state semifinals, finished the state tourney 6-of-7 with three triples. It was Liberty County's first state title in softball.

“It was a great game today,” said Lafayette coach Derek Garland, who has led the Hornets to four final fours since 2007. “Give Liberty County credit for coming out and hitting the ball, making a few plays defensively. They got on us early. The pitcher for them did a great job moving the ball in and out, up and down.

“I am proud of our girls, they kept fighting. They never gave in and kept making the plays they needed to to give us a chance. This is a special group of girls that I don't know if we will ever see the likes of coming to our school again. I am just proud to be a part of it.”

The Hornets got off to an encouraging start when freshman Lacey Swafford opened with a single to right, and stole second and third. But Kaleigh Law's liner to first was caught to end the threat.

“That was really big,” Garland said. “If we could have scored a couple of runs there, we would have put some pressure on them. But their first baseman make a great play on that. I thought it was really pivotal. They came out, and we got 1-2-3 on them. Then they got a couple of runs and it kind of changed the momentum of the game.”

Montana Manley doubled for the Bulldogs (25-3) in the the second inning and scored on Chelsea Gowan's single. Leslie Williams' sacrifice fly to right scored Brianne Whatley, who reached on a walk, for a 2-0 Liberty County lead.

Freeman opened the Hornets' third with her bunt single, beating out the throw to first base. But she got caught off base after a short fly and was doubled up. Lafayette never had a baserunner the rest of the game.

Lindsay O'Steen (15-3) took the loss, giving up all three runs in three innings of work. Swafford came on in relief and threw three scoreless innings.

“I knew they were going to be a good hitting team. I've played with and against a bunch of them,” said O'Steen, one of three seniors who played their last game for Lafayette. “The first inning we did go three up, three down, but those two hits they got were solid. So no matter if I hit my spots or not, they were going to find a way to hit the ball, they were going to find a way to make things happen.

“Right now we are upset about this, but truly winning three out of four times, I'm OK with that any day. Some teams don't have that one time. We have three.”

Lafayette won back-to-back volleyball titles in 2011-2012, with O'Steen being named 1A volleyball player of the year last fall. She has signed with College of Central Florida in Ocala and plans to play just softball in college.

Despite the loss of players like O'Steen, the 2012 small school athlete of the year, Swafford believes the Hornets will be back.

“I can see a lot of talk from the younger players on the team and they have a desire to win,” she said. “That is always good. I feel privileged to be able to play with these seniors.”

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