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Salem bats explode in season opening win

It didn’t take the Salem softball team long to show off what could be the program’s finest offense in years.

Daijah Whitfield drilled a three-run home run to lead a 13-hit attack as the Seminoles rolled to a 17-7 win in five innings over Rockdale Tuesday in the season opener for both schools.

Even without Kennedy Lester in the lineup after the sophomore shortstop broke her thumb over the weekend, the Seminoles still batted around in two different innings and had every batter in the lineup pick up at least one hit, except for No. 9 hitter Jasmine Colbert, who drew a fourth-inning walk.

Visiting Rockdale actually held a 7-4 lead after a two-run third in which Miasia Mayer roped a double and scooted home on Precious Paul’s run-scoring single and later, Paul came around to score on Sydney Driver’s double.

It was all Salem after that.

In a 10-batter third against Driver, who started and took the loss for the Bulldogs, the Seminoles scored six times with RBI-singles coming from Mariah Briney and C.C. McCullum and Lane Powell delivering a two-run double to help put the hosts up 10-7.

Things got worse an inning later as Salem sent 12 to the plate. After Peyton Mitchell (double) and Briney each scored on infield errors, two were on for Whitfield, who took a first-pitch fast ball and crushed a home run to dead-center field to put the Seminoles ahead 15-7.

“The girls can swing the bats,” said first-year Salem coach Bobby Link. “I still think we can hit better. Some of them are just learning how to hit.”

Salem jumped on top right away with a four-run first. Powell, Mitchell and Briney each had doubles in the frame with Briney’s finding the left-center field gap and chasing home two runs to add to her five-RBI day and give Salem a 3-0 lead. Later, Mikayla Whitfield’s, Daijah’s twin sister, had an RBI-groundout for a 4-0 cushion.

Salem starter Skylene Lewis gave it back in the top of the second. Kelsey Stewart had a hustle double and Driver added a bloop single that scored a run, but Rockdale was helped by Lewis’ wildness. The sophomore right-hander, who picked up the win in an abbreviated complete game, walked four in the inning, including three bases loaded free passes to force in runs, and hit Amanda George with a pitch.

“We got to get some work with our pitching. The old adage, 90 percent of all walks score, that’s what happened,” said Link.

Link will have plenty of time to work on not just pitching as Salem has eight days off before returning to the field August 21 against Winder-Barrow in the Region 8-AAAAA opener. Meanwhile, Lester, who hit .500 as a freshman a year ago, had surgery on the thumb Wednesday.

“We were expecting good things from (Lester) and hopefully things will work out (with the surgery),” Link said Tuesday night.