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Union County (Who Else?) Heavily Favored To Win AAA Softball Title In 2019

HSSR AAA Softball Ranking

(As of 3-15-19)

1.       Union County

2.       Battery Creek

3.       Hanahan

4.       Clinton

5.       Dillon

6.       Aynor

7.       Gilbert

8.       Chesnee

9.       Strom Thurmond

10.   Loris


Union County (Who Else?) Heavily Favored To Win AAA Softball Title In 2019  

By Billy G. Baker


Union—No doubt there were some happy softball coaches across the AAAA ranks in South Carolina when Union County won an appeal to realign down to AAA for the 2018-19 school year, after already playing for five straight titles in a row, winning four of them.

You could say Hartsville’s moment of joy in AAAA was clouded out by a sense of caution from teams like Hanahan, Crescent, Broome and Battery Creek who might face the powerful and tradition rich Yellow Jackets in the AAA playoffs this season. Union County, coached by veteran Tommy Petty, is the heavy favorite to win their 5th state title in six seasons this May.

Although the team graduated five seniors from a 31-5 championship team last year, senior power pitcher Bailey Betenbaugh returns better than ever. The South Carolina Gamecock softball signee was the HSSR-Co-Miss Softball last season when she led the state in strike-outs with 242, had 51 RBI’s at the plate, while also leading state in home runs with 16. She had an ERA of 0.73 over her 23 wins. Most agree that she is the most complete prep softball players, in all aspects of her game, to ever play the sport in South Carolina.

When asked what the strength of the team was for the 2018-19 season Coach Petty had a one-word answer, “Bailey,” he said. “I have been asked by a lot of people in the media to describe her and her God given talents for the game and I can honesty say that she is simply country tough. She has a competitive nature about her that is unmatched when she gets between those white lines and when she is in the circle needing to throw the right pitch on a 3-2 count.

“She’s just as good at the plate and her offensive numbers rival her pitching numbers and as long as we have her on our team we feel good about beating anyone on our schedule, especially when she is in the circle,” said Coach Petty. “She’s a player who comes along occasionally, and she is a real joy to coach. She’s humble and team oriented and she will do whatever it takes to help the team win.” 

Through March 16th Union County is off to a 6-1 start with their only loss to AAAAA Byrnes in the Lady Rebel Invitational on March 16. Betenbaugh didn’t pitch in the game with Byrnes.  In the tournament Union County defeated Ashley Ridge 1-0 over-coming a 17 strike-out performance by Katie Freeman. In a 10-0 win over Fort Mill all-region center fielder Courtney Seymore had three hits including a home run and a double in the big win.

Union County has first year starters at first and second base. Junior Addy Ferrell is at first, and she is also the team’s number two pitcher. Junior Ryleigh Earls is doing a good job defensively at second base. Kalli Petty is an 8th grader starting at shortstop and she is playing solid defense. Makala Grady is a returning starter at third base this season. The speedy Seymore is a gold glove in center field and she is flanked by junior returnee Ashanti Young in left and Kristin Kicidis returns in right field.

Kailee Stepp is in her first year starting behind the plate and she is doing a very job framing up Betenbaugh and the Yellow jacket pitchers. “She is hoping to get an opportunity at USC-Salk next season,” said Coach Petty. “She is a hard worker and certainly deserves a next level opportunity.”

The team carries 13 players. Some key reserves and courtesy runners include Jordan Morris, Skyler Toth, Abby Smith and Kate Burgess.

Coach Petty said his team goal every year is to win the last game. “Several years ago, when I told my wife the key was to always win the last game of the season she thought I was crazy until I explained it to her that only the state champions win the very last game they play each season,” said Coach Petty. “Our goal is to compete for and win a state title and these girls at Union County are focused on doing just that.”

Union County will rest some over Spring break and not play in any mid-season tournaments. Coach Petty is assisted by Steve Walton and Jessica Hines.    




© 2017 High School Sports Report

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