The Region 3-4A softball championship has gone through either Clover or Northwestern the past few years. Now the 4A Upper State championship will too.
Clover hosts the Trojans on Friday night at 6 p.m., needing to win once to advance to the state championship series. Bryan Smith’s Northwestern club will have to beat the Blue Eagles twice on their home patch to get to the state finals.
“We’re excited to be playing for the Upper State championship,” said Clover coach Shea Hall. “Northwestern is a very good team. We need to take care of business on our end, execute, and find a way to come out on top.”
Though Northwestern won the region this spring, Clover beat the Trojans in both regular season meetings, 2-1 and 7-4. The Blue Eagles, led by the college-bound bats of middle infield duo Blake Wallert and Marisa Harkey, have knocked Northwestern, driven thus far in part by USC Upstate signee Kori Wancheck’s efforts, out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
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“We are going over there with the mentality of winning one, then we will worry about game two,” said Northwestern’s Smith. “Things tend to tighten up when that second game rolls around. We have played in so many close games over the last couple of years that our girls play with the attitude that someone in the lineup or in the field is going to come up big for the team and we will pull it out.”
The team that emerges from Friday will face the winner of Summerville-Wando in the state championship series. Nation Ford was the last softball state champion from The Herald’s coverage area, in 2010 at the 3A level. Lancaster was the last local 4A team to reach the state finals (2000), and also the last to win a 4A softball state title (1990).
“I anticipate a great atmosphere, and I know both teams will be fighting to the end,” said Hall. “This matchup is great for our region and area.”
▪ Northwestern baseball is in a similar situation to its softball counterparts. Mitch Walters’ Trojans handled T.L. Hanna on Wednesday night on the road to set up a Friday visit to J.L. Mann at 5 p.m. Northwestern will have to win twice to advance to a second straight 4A state title series.
▪ And Lewisville is looking to return to the 1A baseball state championship for the first time since the Lions won it all in 2010. Billy Keels’ team is in good shape, hosting region rival McBee at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and needing just one win to book a place in the finals. McBee and Lewisville split their two regular season meetings.
▪ Wayne Simmons and Will Reid signed national letters of intent on Thursday morning at Rock Hill. Simmons, a defensive lineman for the Bearcats, will play college football at Newberry. Reid, a right-handed pitcher, will continue his baseball career at USC Lancaster.
▪ A pair of Lewisville bat sport stars have been named to the North-South all-star game. Senior pitcher Evan Sisk – signed with College of Charleston – will represent the Lions in the baseball version of the game, while Autumn Jordan will play in the softball contest.
▪ Northwestern boys’ tennis player Thomas Williams has qualified for the 3A/4A singles state championship tournament Monday and Tuesday at the Cayce Tennis Center. Williams, a junior, completed the Region 3-4A schedule undefeated and is the first Trojan to reach the individual tournament since Joseph Carvalho did so 13 years ago.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T