South Creek ready for showdown with West WilkesPublished 7:36pm Thursday, May 30, 2013
ROBERSONVILLE — After a long, hard journey the South Creek softball team stands two wins away from clutching the first state championship of any kind in the school’s three-year history.
The path to Walnut Creek has been an exciting one, as the Cougars had to battle their way through the jungle known as the Four Rivers Conference before entering the postseason as a No. 3 seed.
After spending months fighting past Panthers, Seahawks, Pirates and Knights the Cougars have emerged as kings of the jungle and as a result of their treacherous journey they feel better prepared for what lies ahead.
“You cannot beat the Four Rivers Conference. That is a great conference to be in,” South Creek coach Patrick Herring said. “It’s stressful of course, when we are all beating each other up and jockeying for position but there’s not a better conference to prepare you for the playoffs.
“We had a team last year (Camden) that was a five seed that ended up making it to the final game. All those teams just help you tremendously when getting prepared for the playoffs.”
The Cougars (23-4) hope that holds true as they take on a West Wilkes team in a best of three series that arrives at Walnut Creek with a 27-4 record and was the No. 1 seed from the Mountain Valley Conference.
Game 1 will be played tonight at 8 p.m. and the series will resume Saturday at 11 a.m. Should their be a third game, it will be played at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The Blackhawks’ journey to the state title game was no cakewalk either as they knocked off a previously undefeated Chatham Central team that had won 26 straight games heading into the West Regional Championship Series.
“We know they’re a great team. You don’t get this far without playing hard,” Herring said. “From my understanding they’re a very senior-led team and are defensively solid. They have two good pitchers and we expect it to be a great game between two good teams.”
Both teams enter the series with two aces on call as South Creek is led by the tandem of Taylor Moore (10-2, .71 ERA) and Lauren Sitterson (9-2, 1.86), while the Blackhawks are guided by Courtney Lackey (16-2, 1.80) and Emily Visnic.
Lackey, who’s batting .360 on the year, was named the Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year, and teams up with Caitlyn Shepherd (.483 BA) and Lauren Church (.476) to form a dangerous lineup.
Herring did not commit to a starting pitcher for Game 1 as of deadline but said that both Moore and Sitterson will be counted on heavily.
“We will continue with our rotation but we just haven’t figured out who will start Game 1 on Friday,” Herring said. “We might even end up using both in in the same game. It just depends. We’re going in with the same mentality we had during the regular season because it really has worked out well for us.”
The duo of Moore and Sitterson has been stellar as they have yielded only five runs in six postseason games. However, the Cougar have had plenty of players rise to the occasion.
“Victoria Van Nortwick plays first base and has done an excellent job of digging balls up out of the dirt and covering slaps and bunts and went 3-3 in the (third round of the playoffs against Perquimans),” Herring said. “Reina Mondragon has been huge defensively for us. Brittany Webb at short has a cannon on her and our outfield has done an excellent job. They have only had about three or four errors during the postseason.”
Playing airtight defense is a trend that must continue if the Cougars want to head home with a state championship.
“First off, our pitching needs to be on. Anytime you can limit walks that’s great. They don’t need to get a lot of strike outs, but if we can make plays on balls put in play that will be great,” Herring said. “We have to make the routine plays and limit errors. Our defense has to be on its ‘A” game. If we can do that and take an early lead that will help the whole team relax a little bit.”