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Published 8:34 am Thursday, May 8, 2014

MERRY HILL – The queen is back.

After six years away from the top spot in the Tarheel Independent Conference, the Lawrence Academy softball team defeated Hobgood Academy, 13-7, here Tuesday to win their first conference tournament championship since 2009.

Emma Conigliaro, who pitched three games in two days, got the win after giving up a pair of early runs.  In the circle she surrendered seven runs on 15 hits while walking four – three of those base-on-balls coming in the first inning.

At the plate Conigliaro was 3-for-4 and scored five runs while driving in a pair of runs.  Teammate Maggie Daniels was 3-for-3 and had three RBI, while Kennedy Dail, Sydney Brabble, and Gracen Rogers also had a multi-hit game.

Kaitlyn Kostrzebski, the TIC ‘Player of the Year’, absorbed the loss for the Lady Raiders.  She and teammate Madison Warren were both 3-for-4 while Taylor Smith was 2-for-5 at the plate for Hobgood.

Lawrence won the game playing ‘small-ball’, winning with defense and running the base paths.  The Lady Warriors did not have an extra-base hit the entire game but had 11 stolen bases; scoring once on a double-steal and crossing the plate four more times on passed-balls.

“My arm’s a little sore because I pitched yesterday (in the TIC semi-finals) and I had a rec-ball game last night, but otherwise I feel good,” said a smiling Conigliaro after the game.  We haven’t been here in the four year’s I’ve been here so I’m really proud of my team.”

“We’ve been working on short game all year and that’s been our strength,” said drenched Lawrence coach Kristen White, doused with a Gatorade bath by her team after the game. “I’ve got short game, I’ve got speed, and I’ve got just enough power hitters to do the job.”

After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning Lawrence showed off that speed when Gia Conigliaro walked and stole second base.  Chelsea Ginn’s base hit moved her to third and when Emma Conigliaro delivered a hit up the middle, Gia scored but Ginn was out trying to score behind her.  Maggie Daniels later delivered Emma to tie the score at 2-2 after the first inning.

Hobgood got another run in the top of the third to lead it 3-2 before Lawrence played small-ball once again.  Emma walked, stole second and went to third on a passed ball before Kostrzebski then got two strike outs. However, another passed ball allowed Conigliaro to score the tying run. Daniels then walked followed by a base hit by Allie Jones to get two aboard.  Harley West’s base hit delivered Daniels with the go-ahead run and Rogers’ single plated Jones for a two-run Lawrence cushion.

Two more Warrior runs came in the bottom of the fourth when Emma Conigliaro got a one-out single and stole second.  Dail walked and Maggie Daniels’ hit to left field delivered Conigliaro and Dail for a 7-3 lead after four.

Hobgood got one run back in the top of the fifth before Lawrence ran roughshod over the Raiders.  Nine Warrior batters went to the plate and five of those runs scored.  However, only one run was earned as Lauren Baker scored on a double-steal and two more runs came across on passed balls.  It was 11-4, Lawrence, entering the sixth.

Hobgood scored a pair in the top of the frame thanks to a Smith double to the wall, but with two on, Conigliaro got a pop-up and a ground-out to end the threat.

After Lawrence scored their final two runs in the bottom of the sixth, the last one coming in on Brabble’s blooper that dropped in right field, Lawrence had a seven-run lead.

Kostrzebski drove in one last Hobgood run in the top of the seventh before Conigliaro got a fly-out to nail down the win.

“We were without our starting catcher (Kaleigh Barwick) today because she (was sick),” said Raiders coach Phil Medford. “With her it’s a (different) score.”

Lawrence and Hobgood tied for the conference regular-season title, but now, thanks to the tournament victory, the former “Queens of TIC softball” are back on the throne.

“It’s been a long time,” said White. “It’s great to be back here.”