DAHLONEGA— Home runs and strikeouts told the story on Wednesday night in Dahlonega as Class AA’s No. 6-ranked Union County softball team rode an early lead to a 5-1 victory over Lumpkin County.
Kaitlyn Seabolt and Ansley Brown both homered for the Lady Panthers, giving pitcher Angie Hughes enough support to earn her seventh win of the season from the pitching circle.
Hughes, a junior, threw a complete game with 10 strikeouts, and while both Hughes and coach Jessica Stewart were satisfied with the strikeout total, it was only allowing two walks that they were truly happy with.
Hughes had been walking “around four players a game” Stewart said.
“That’s something we’ve tried to work on with her,” Stewart said. “And she got that down tonight.”
After the Lady Panthers took an early 1-0 lead thanks to a leadoff homerun from Seabolt, Hughes stepped to the circle, where she scattered six hits and gave up the lone Lumpkin County run in the bottom of the seventh inning. The right-hander had given up only three hits before Brown stepped to the plate in the fourth and hit a two-run home run, giving Union County a 3-0 lead and letting Hughes cruise to the win.
“I think I pitched well,” Hughes said. “I’m just happy I got my walks down.”
Despite the strong performance in the circle, Stewart was also quick to point out that the Lady Panthers hit well too.
“We try to do both,” Stewart said. “Our goal is to hit solid because we know that Angie’s going to give us a good opportunity to win every time.
“But we have to get hits and we did that tonight.”
Tori Dyer, Whitney Kelley, and Brown all had two hits on the night for Union County, with Callie Dyer adding an RBI sacrifice in the top of the fifth.
Seabolt’s home run was the first of her high school career, according to Stewart.
“She’s a contact hitter,” Stewart said. “And she can hit with power but I think that’s her first in her four years here.”
Union County will have to continue to receive strong performances from places other than the circle if they want to win Region 8-AA.
“I think it’ll be tough to get past North Oconee,” Stewart said. “But we’ll do our best. We have all nine starters back this year, so I think we can definitely go back to the state playoffs.”
Stewart said that her girls are aware that they are ranked in the state coaches poll, but that they are “not trying to focus on it.”
“We’re just trying to win every game,” Stewart said.
Union County (10-1-1, 4-0 Region 8A-AA) is currently sitting atop the subregion, while North Oconee (10-3, 6-0 Region 8B-AA) is in first on its side.
On the other side of the spectrum, Lumpkin County (6-4, 1-2 in Region 8A-AAA) is fighting for position in the pursuit of the state playoffs.
Coach Alma Arnold knows that if the Lady Indians want to be in better position come the postseason, they’re going to have to improve.
And Arnold believes that improvements are being made.
“We have to keep getting better,” said Arnold. “The first time we came out against Union we had six or seven errors; we kept that down this game.”
Union County won the first meeting between the two teams on Aug. 17, but Arnold cites a differing score as another sign that Lumpkin County might be getting better.
“We lost 6-0 last time and improved that to 5-1 this time,” Arnold said. “Every time we go out, we get better.”
The Lady Indians’ coach was also quick to give praise to Hughes.
“She’s really strong,” Arnold said. “We had some trouble getting our offense going. But last time we had 15 strikeouts and this time we had 10, so that’s another sign of improvement.
“The home run ball just got us a couple of time tonight.”
Seabolt finished the night 2-for-3 with a walk and stolen base, while Brown (2-for-4) had one of the game’s two doubles; the other came off the bat of Dyer.
Both teams play subregion opponents at 6 p.m. Thursday. Union County visits East Hall and Lumpkin County plays host to Stephens County.