The undefeated Northwestern Trojans scored all their runs in the first two innings to come away with a 6-2 victory over visiting Lugoff-Elgin in playoff action Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, the Trojans (19-0) will move on to face the winner of Monday’s game between Lugoff-Elgin and Hillcrest contest Wednesday at Northwestern. By advancing to the winner’s bracket, the Trojans will need just one more win to advance to the Upper State playoffs.
Northwestern head coach Bryan Smith was all smiles as he talked about moving on in the playoffs.
“We jumped on them in that first inning, sending eight batters to the plate and scoring three runs,” Smith said. “And it was also nice to get three more in the second. We made a couple of mistakes and we need to minimize those in order to go further in the playoffs. But we made up for the errors. The girls fought back and battled. I am glad to be in the driver’s seat.”
After Trojans’ hurler Kori Wancheck retired the Demons in order in the top of the first, her teammates’ bats went to work in the bottom of the frame. Daina Chase reached on an infield hit and one out later, Rachel Marion drew a walk.
A sharp grounder by Cassie Wancheck was mishandled at shortstop and Chase came around to score to put the Trojans on the board. Meredith Cudd followed with a single to left to load the bases. Tiana Lewter then laced a single to center to plate two runs and build a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second, LaBresha Whitlock drew a walk and Chase sacrificed her to second. Kori Wancheck then stepped to the plate and slammed a Blizzard pitch over the center-field fence to put her team up 5-0. Marion followed with a hit and was replaced on the base path by courtesy runner Delia Fields. Fields proceeded to swipe second and motored to third on a wild throw. Fields then scampered home on Cassie Wancheck‘s base hit to give the hosts a 6-0 advantage.
The Demons (20-4) broke through in the fourth after Taylor Rawl singled to left. Rawl moved up a base after a Northwestern miscue and moved to third after another infield error. With runners on the corners Lugoff-Elgin pulled a double steal that resulted in a Rawl run to make it 6-1, with Savannah Grisby at third. Kori Wancheck then bore down and induced a pair of pop-ups to end the inning.
Northwestern found itself looking at collecting three more outs to advance after a pair of scoreless innings. Kelly Graham led off with a single for Lugoff-Elgin and one out later, Dallas Guerrero reached on an error. Kori Wancheck then fanned Blizzard for the third time before a two-out Taylor Mullins single to center scored Grisby to make it 6-2. Sophia Holland then lofted a pop-up to end the game.
The Trojans finished with nine hits in the game and almost all of them were timely. It was aanother stellar pitching performance by Kori Wancheck as the junior surrendered only three hits – two in the last inning – while striking out eight. And, for good measure, she added a 2-run homer on the offensive side.
“My curve wasn’t working today,” Kori Wancheck said. “But Rachel (Marion) did a really good job of calling the pitches that were working. They (Lugoff-Elgin) have a good team.”
Coming off a 10-inning performance Thursday against Gaffney, the star pitcher was asked about fatigue and pressure.
“There isn’t pressure with us. We know we have to win, “ Wancheck said. “But we do like the break (their next game will be Wednesday) because you can get tired in the loser’s bracket.”
Northwestern 6 Lugoff-Elgin 2
Erin Blizzard and Taylor Rawl (LE); Kori Wancheck and Rachel Marion (NW) WP- Kori Wancheck LP- Erin Blizzard HR: Kori Wancheck.
LEADING HITTERS: L-E - Taylor Mullins 1-2 rbi, Taylor Rawl 1-3, Kelly Graham 1-2. NW – Kori Wancheck 2-3, 2 rbi, Tiana Lewter 1-2, 2 rbi, Cassie Wancheck 2-3, rbi, Rachel Marion -1-2, Meredith Cudd 1-3.