What was supposed to be a pitcherâ€™s duel between juniors Abby Walls and Nicole Baxter never materialized as North Lincoln (14-3, 8-2) beat Cherryville (13-2, 8-1) 8-3 on Wednesday.
Baxter at one point retired 12 straight batters and ended the game with six strikeouts. She only walked one, demonstrating excellent control, while scattering five hits.
Entering the game, the Lady Ironmen were undefeated at 7-0 in the Southern Foothills Conference. With Wednesdayâ€™s loss, they only lead the second-place Lady Knights by one game.
Cherryville, who won the March 24th meeting 3-2 over North Lincoln, led only once Wednesday.
Candice Carpenter, who had doubled, scored on Erica Doddâ€™s double to left giving the Lady Ironmen a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Knights answered with back-to-back singles by sophomore Courtney Feldon and Jenna Torbert. Lindsey Smith reached on a throwing error, which scored Feldon and Torbert for a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third, Feldon once again jumpstarted the Lady Knights singling up the middle. Senior Nicole Hall cranked a deep blast to center for a RBI-triple.
With Hall on third, Kayla Alexander struck out, but a passed ball, combined with hustle, allowed her to reach, scoring Hall for a 4-1 lead.
Alexander, Donia McDonald and April Wilson had RBI-singles, after Smithâ€™s sacrifice-fly RBI. The four runs gave North Lincoln a commanding 8-1 advantage.
In the top of the sixth, Carpenter scored on a Knightsâ€™ throwing error making the score 8-2.
Tracy Gardo scored on Casey Valentineâ€™s RBI-single accounting for the final run of the game.
With the win, the Lady Knights now need some help from another conference team, by beating Cherryville, to win the SF 1A title.
â€œWe finally played what I thought we should. If we wouldâ€™ve played like this the first time; they might not have beaten us,â€ Knightsâ€™ head coach Rick Brown said.
Feldon, who is batting over .550 this season, has an on-base percentage of .700. Brown has definitely taken notice of his sophomoreâ€™s stellar play.
â€œCourtney has been doing it all season. Sheâ€™s getting on almost every time she gets up there. Sheâ€™s just crushing the ball,â€ he said.
Baxter, surprised she had (at one point) retired 12 in a row, was thrilled her team gained some ground in the conference race.
â€œThis is nice, because I really want to win the conference, thatâ€™s like my ultimate goal,â€ she said, adding, â€œWell to win states, but weâ€™re going on one step at a time. This is a really good step to take and I felt I pitched well.â€
â€œThat was our goal to come out and be focused on the game and to beat Cherryville, because theyâ€™re our rivals,â€ Feldon said. â€œThatâ€™s the game we always get pumped up about, is Cherryville.â€ Feldon led the Lady Knights, going 2-for-2 at the plate and reaching safely four times.
The game also helped Wilson break out of a batting slump, going 2-for-3 with a triple.
â€œYou saw me jump up and down on third. Iâ€™ve been having trouble stepping out and so I told myself donâ€™t step out, donâ€™t step out and then I hit it. It was really exciting, but I have not hit good at all, so it made me really happy,â€ she said.
Barring a total collapse by North Lincoln, the road to a second-consecutive 1A Final Four appearance likely will be via an all-too-familiar route.
â€œIt will be through Cherryville and Maiden probably again. Chances are, it will be the three of us, like it was last year,â€ Brown said.
Dodd and Carpenter led the Lady Ironmen, going 1-for-2. Dodd also had a RBI. Valentine was 1-for-3 with one RBI. Caitlin Self also went 1-for-3.
Torbert went 2-for-4, Wilson was 2-for-3 with a RBI. Hall also had a RBI.
Centerfielder Meg Fraley tracked down a couple of hard-hit balls in the sixth inning.
Junior Nicole Baxter struck out six batters and allowed only one walk against Cherryville. Baxter is working on a change-up to add to her pitching repertoire. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
by John Mark Brooks