Freshman Kayla Alexander made her mark in the North Lincoln Knightsâ€™ 9-0 victory over Hayesville (11-6) in the first round of the 1A State Playoffs.
Alexander went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Two of Alexanderâ€™s hits were inside-the-park homeruns.
â€œWe made some minor adjustments of what she was doing and the last couple of games theyâ€™ve really worked and sheâ€™s made a lot better contact,â€ Knightsâ€™ head coach Rick Brown said of his talented freshman.
â€œThat really helps the meat part of the lineup. The bottom part of the lineup has started coming through and scoring some runs too,â€ he added.
Senior Nicole Hall, Donia McDonald and Courtney Feldon had two hits apiece. Hall, Feldon and Jenna Torbert also pitched in with one RBI each.
While North Lincoln pounded out 11-hits, junior Nicole Baxterâ€™s performance was just as stellar.
Baxter pitched a complete game shutout, while striking out 11 batters in the process.
â€œIâ€™m was just really happy we got our bats going. People that werenâ€™t getting hits were getting homeruns. Kaylaâ€™s been in a little slump and she got up there and proved she was worthy,â€ Baxter said.
Baxter walked the bases loaded, but demonstrated her mental toughness by striking out the side.
â€œI just lost my focus. By the third walk, â€˜Iâ€™m sitting there going Iâ€™m not walking anybody home, not in a playoff game.â€™ I just threw the ball and didnâ€™t aim it.â€
The lone bright spot for Hayesville was centerfielder Carissa Dancer. Dancer robbed Baxter of an extra-base hit and RBIs by tracking down a hard-hit ball in the bottom of the second. Dancer has threw out a Knightsâ€™ runner at the plate in the bottom of the fourth.
Up next for the Lady Knights in the second round is the Smoky Mountainâ€™s No. 1 seed Swain County (16-4), whom North Lincoln will visit early next week.
At press time, Brown believed the game would be Tuesday.
While the day has yet to be established, the Devilsâ€™ pitcher is not. Sarah Davis is the teamâ€™s ace and will pitch versus North Lincoln, barring something unforeseen.
â€œEverybody I talk to tells me they have one of the better pitchers around. Sheâ€™s the real deal,â€ Brown said.
The second round match-up could very easily turn into a pitcherâ€™s duel between the talented two pitchers.
Brown feels one key area will likely be the difference-maker.
â€œI believe the team that makes the fewest mistakes will probably win that game,â€ he said.
â€œThe girls are continuing their momentum from the conference tournament. The hitting has probably been the highlight of the last couple of games,â€ Brown, who is proud of the way his team is playing, said.
by John Mark Brooks