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Late run is the difference as Sussex Central High School softball edges Saint Mark’s High School: Photo gallery

Takyla Davis slides in with the game's only run in the sixth inning. She singled to open the frame. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

MILLTOWN — Back and forth they went, Madge Layfield and Carly Maxton. With two of Delaware’s best softball pitchers in the circle, Sussex Central’s trip to Saint Mark’s on May 11 could have gone either way. The game was scoreless into the sixth inning, when the Golden Knights pushed across an unearned run that held up in a 1-0 victory.

Maxton, the senior who will attend North Carolina State next season, saw the first Central batter reach on an error, then set down the next seven before Nakiya Copes smacked a one-out single to center in the third for the Knights’ first hit. Takyla Davis followed with an infield single, but the Spartans registered the next two outs at third base on fielder’s choices.

Layfield was just as effective. The junior allowed a second-inning double to Maxton with one out, then walked Olivia Datilio with two outs before getting the final batter on a strikeout.

As the game moved on, it became apparent that one run could be enough. Maxton got the Golden Knights in order in both the fourth and fifth innings, but Davis opened the sixth with her second single of the day. She was sacrificed to second by Catherine Hassler and scored on a fielding error on a ground ball off the bat of Amara Cropper, beating the throw home with a head-first slide.

The Spartans’ best chance to score came in the fourth. Morgan Hall led off with a single. Courtesy runner Daly O’Donoghue advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball, and after a strikeout, Jordon Alexander walked. Her pinch runner, Ella Nicholson, stole second. Mayfield, however, was equal to the challenge, recording another strikeout before a popup to shortstop Davis ended the threat.

Layfield finished with 12 strikeouts, including the 700th of her high school career. She allowed just the two hits and walked two. Sussex Central (13-3) hosts William Penn on Monday at 4:15 p.m. at Del Tech’s Georgetown campus.

Maxton allowed three singles and walked none while striking out 11. The Spartans (13-2) visit Appoquinimink on Saturday at noon.

All photos by Mike Lang.