Ticket punchedPublished 6:08pm Saturday, May 25, 2013
ROBERSONVILLE — Lauren Sitterson punched out the final batter and then turned toward the South Creek dugout and punched her fist in the air. With that, the Cougars punched their ticket to Walnut Creek as they topped Heide Trask 3-0 on Friday to sweep the East Regional Championship Series and advance to the NCHSAA 1-A State title game.
South Creek (23-4), the No. 1 seed from the Four Rivers Conference, began the series on the road with an 8-2 victory over the No. 1-seeded Titans (20-3, Tri-County) Thursday night. On Friday, the Cougars returned to Robersonville for Game 2 of the best of three series and were able to clinch their state appearance in front of their hometown fans.
“Any time you can win a series at home that’s always great,” South Creek coach Patrick Herring said.
Though the final score was 3-0, the contest did not lack drama. After struggling against Cougars ace Taylor Moore for six innings, the Titans were able to load the bases with one out in the top of the seventh.
It was then that Herring decided to go to Sitterson, the Game 1 winner, to extinguish the fire. The move worked as Sitterson smoked the final two batters of the inning, striking out both to kickoff a wild celebration.
“I hate putting a pitcher in a situation like that with bases loaded and asking them to get us out of a jam, but she was able to do it,” Herring said.
Moore was able to do it for a majority of the afternoon as she struck out five batters in 6 1/3 innings while allowing five hits to get the win.
“Her drop ball was working real well,” Herring said. “Against Trask you have to keep it low and she was able to do that.”
Titans’ pitcher Kelly Roughton was nearly as effective, yielding only three hits in seven innings. However, the Cougars were able to tally three runs in the fourth and that rally proved to be the difference.
For the second game in a row the Cougars scored with small ball tactics. Reina Mondragon led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch before advancing to third on a Brittany Webb slap single to center. Webb would take second on the play as Trask conceded the base to keep Mondragon at bay.
With runners on second and third, Sitterson appeared to check her swing on a slap attempt and sent the ball rolling down the first base line and under the glove of the Titans first baseman allowing Mondragon to score from third and Sitterson to reach first safely.
“That thing was kind of ugly but it worked,” joked Herring. “It was like a slap-bunt-hit but it ended up working well for us.”
With two runners on Cougars dangerous cleanup hitter Kim Mobley stepped to the plate, but Herring stuck with his small ball game. Mobley executed a perfect sacrifice bunt and South Creek took a 2-0 lead.
“She came up in that situation and looked at me and I gave her the sign for the squeeze,” Herring said. “Sometimes those number three and four batters get up there and they want to swing the stick and go for the fences, but she looked at me and she was confident and just shook her head (in agreement) and laid it down.
“I told her I couldn’t be any more proud of her because that’s what a leader and a captain does.”
South Creek tacked on one more run as Alexis Craft followed up with another bunt, which was misplayed by Trask and put the Cougars up 3-0.
With the lead in hand, South Creek never looked back and can now look forward to playing in the state championship series next weekend.
Heide Trask 000 000 0 — 0 5 2
South Creek 000 040 x — 3 3 1
WP: Taylor Moore; LP: Kelly Roughton
Hitting: HT — Robbie Murray 1-4, Kyra Holmes 1-3, A.J. Johnson 1-3, Taylor Rivenburgh 1-3; SC — Brittany Webb 1-3 (1R), Alexis Craft 1-2, Victoria Van Nortwick 1-2.