BROOKLET — Last season, it was a rough start for Southeast Bulloch. In 2010, the Lady Yellow Jackets came out of the gate firing.
A three-run first inning put SEB ahead right away and the Jackets never looked back, cruising to a 5-0, rain-shortened opening day victory over Statesboro Tuesday afternoon at Lady Jackets Field in Brooklet.
“I was very pleased with what I saw from our girls out there today,” said SEB coach Aimee Civalier. “I had mentioned to them earlier that we came out slow last season and that I wanted them to focus on a good start. We had a couple of situations where we didn’t score in good opportunities, but overall, we played very well.”
The Jackets used a good combination of power and patience to light up the scoreboard.
Ansley Rushing and Lindsey Crosby led off the bottom of the first with a pair of walks. Both moved into scoring position on a Lady Blue Devil error and senior Hannah Denmark drove in Rushing on an RBI groundout.
One batter later, sophomore catcher Effie Manahan pushed the SEB lead to 2-0 with an RBI double to the wall in right center.
A bases loaded walk issued to Jade Scarboro later in the inning had the Jackets well on their way.
“I thought that we did a good job early on,” said Civalier. “We did a good job of getting on with walks and then running the bases. Then, we got some key hits when we needed them to drive home runs.”
Given the early lead, freshman pitcher Taylor Wilkes notched the win in her high school debut. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out eight Statesboro batters and allowed just one hit in cruising to the win.
“I was a little nervous since it was my first time out there,” said Wilkes. “The coaches told me to just calm down, focus, and throw strikes. I got a couple of strikeouts and knew that I had a good defense behind me, so that gave me a lot of confidence.”
The only trouble Wilkes encountered came in her first inning. Two walks and a Kyera Whittaker single loaded the bases with no outs, but Wilkes bounced back, striking out the next two Blue Devils and coaxing a groundout to end the threat and keep Statesboro off the scoreboard.
“It made me a little nervous in the dugout,” said Civalier. “You know that it’s her first time and that everyone has to go through it. I was very proud to see her bear down and get out of that jam. That’s great to see from a young pitcher.”
The Jackets made it 4-0 in the bottom of the second when Demark singled home Rushing, who had doubled to lead off the inning.
In the third, Rushing connected on another double, then scored when the throw on her attempted steal of third base sailed into left field.
None of the insurance would be necessary for Wilkes, who allowed just three more Devils to reach base after the first inning. All of those runners cam in the fourth inning as Statesboro again loaded the bases with two outs, but Wilkes struck out Katherine Fraley to escape the jam.
The Jackets will try to keep their hot start going Thursday as SEB travels to Calvary Day for its first road contest of the season.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.