The Northwestern Trojans struck early and then rode the right arm of talented senior pitcher Kori Wancheck to come away with a 4-0 softball playoff win over visiting Spring Valley on Saturday afternoon.
Wancheck finished the day by scattering four Vikings hits, registering seven strikeouts, and walking only one batter.
With the victory the Trojans (19-4) stay in the winner’s bracket of District Three and will be able to rest until Wednesday when they face the winner of Monday’s elimination game between Spring Valley and J.L Mann. The Trojans will host Wednesday’s game.
“Kori was able to work out of some jams early and then got in a groove and shut them down,” Trojans coach Bryan Smith said. “I am happy with the way we’re playing right now. If we can continue (playing well) I think we can have a deep run (in the playoffs.)”
Wancheck was all smiles after the game and was quick to give credit to her teammates.
“As a team we did real well today,” said Wancheck. “The whole team is hitting well and today we played good defense. My drop curve was working today and Rachel (catcher Marion) did well calling that (pitch). We are really connected as a team. The early lead today helped a lot pitching-wise because that relieves a lot of stress.”
The early lead that Wancheck referred to came in the opening inning. With one out, Daina Chase and Rachel Marion collected back to back singles to left field putting runners on first and second. Following a fly out Annie Greene put the Trojans on the board with a clutch base hit to left that plated Chase giving Northwestern a 1-0 lead.
With runners on second and third Tiana Lewter grounded to shortstop and courtesy runner Emma Mondo scored before the Vikings (15-7) were able to tag out Greene in a rundown and the Trojans moved on top 2-0.
Spring Valley attempted to get back in the contest in its half of the second inning as the first two batters reached via a hit-by-pitch and a walk. Wancheck then bore down and retired the next three batters.
Northwestern tacked on another run in the third after Wancheck worked out of a jam in the top of the frame by stranding a pair of Spring Valley runners. Cassie Wancheck singled and proceeded to swipe second; then came around to score when the Viking third baseman’s throw on a Rachel Marion grounder sailed over the first baseman’s head.
Northwestern almost added to its 3-0 advantage but courtesy runner Mondo was thrown out at the plate after another Green base hit. Green was praised by Smith in his postgame comments. “Annie Green has been clutch for us the last two games with her two out hits.”
The Trojans tallied their final run of the game in the fifth inning without the benefit of a hit. Chase walked and then beat the throw to second on an attempted force out. Once again Chase showcased her speed as she beat Viking third baseman Whitney Jenkins to the bag after a grounder.
With the bases loaded Lewter grounded out to first baseman Shay Jacobs but Chase alertly crossed home plate to account for the final 4-0 score.
“They (Northwestern) are a very good team,” said Vikings coach Maureen McKelvey. “They were able to put the ball in play and we hit it right at them. Now we turn our focus to J.L. Mann (Monday) and keep doing what we do. We look forward to seeing them (Northwestern) again.”
Spring Valley starting pitcher Anna Davis had a good game in defeat as she gave up six hits – only one after the third inning. She also had two of her team’s four hits.
However, it’s Northwestern that gets to rest before returning to action Wednesday and that suits Smith just fine.
“We were playing for a day off today and we got it,” he said. “We prefer the rest.”
Northwestern 4, Spring Valley 0
WP – Kori Wancheck LP – Anna Davis
Leading Hitters: SV – Anna Davis 2-3 2b, Breann Martinez 1-3, Whitney Jenkins 1-3.
N –Annie Green 2-3, 2rbi; Rachel Marion 1-3; Cassie Wancheck 1-3; Lorna Day 1-3; Daina Chase 1-3.