Thursday, April 10, 2014
North Augusta head coach Derrick Quinn said it was good to see his team hit with some consistency on Friday. The timely hitting combined with a strong pitching performances led the Yellow Jackets (11-6, 5-3 Region 5-AAAA) to two victories on the opening day of the Triple Crown Invitational on Friday, the first of which was a 15-0 victory over Fox Creek (11-6, 7-0 Region 4-A) in three innings.
“We hadn’t done that all year,” Quinn said of the hitting performance. “We’ve been very inconsistent hitting wise, but we actually stayed back on the ball and hit the ball hard up the middle, and that’s about all we did.”
The offensive onslaught by North Augusta started in the first inning after Karly Heath got on base with walk. Brooke Lavalee then tripled for the Yellow Jackets’ first run of the game. The entire North Augusta lineup came to the plate in the first inning, as more hits combined with some errors by Fox Creek led to a six-run inning.
Fox Creek couldn’t get any momentum in the game, and head coach David Bell said the game was a lesson.
“They did everything, and we didn’t do anything. What else do you need to know,” Bell said, who also noted that competing against Class AAAA wasn’t a factor. “That (classification) doesn’t matter. We didn’t come to play, and they beat us. You do learn a lot about yourself when you play teams like that.”
While Fox Creek struggled, North Augusta continued to click. It added seven runs in the second and two in the third before the game was called.
The offense was more than enough for the win, due to Meghan Whitfield’s performance as the starting pitcher.
“When she’s on, the game is easy for us,” Quinn said “When she struggles the game is a little harder. She was good for us tonight. That was big.”
Whitfield struck out six batters and only allowed one hit in the game, but that wasn’t her biggest contribution of the day. In the Yellow Jackets’ second game, an 8-5 victory over Andrew Jackson, she came in to relieve starter Natalie Burke. Burke had a solid outing but gave up four runs in the fourth inning after jumping out to a 6-1 lead. Whitfield entered the game and got three outs, including a double play to end the inning.
Andrew Jackson threatened to score more runs in the fifth, but their base runner got caught stealing to end the inning in the fifth.
North Augusta avoided disaster in the bottom of the sixth when Whitfield got out of a bases-loaded jam.
Whitfield wasn’t the only Yellow Jacket with two strong performances. Brooke Lavalee had six hits in the two games and knocked in three runs. Karly Heath and Burke finished the day with four hits each.
Quinn said the team needs to head into spring break with positive momentum.
“I give them the whole Spring Break off, but we need to have a good two day’s so we can enjoy our spring break,” Quinn said.
The Jackets went on to beat Pelion, 13-5, and advanced to the championship bracket. They stumbled against Gilbert and lost, 22-9, before bouncing back to beat White Knoll 10-1 and finish in third place in the tournament. They will next take the field at Bluffton on April 17 at 6 p.m., and then at Aiken on April 22 at 7 p.m.
After falling to North Augusta, Fox Creek went on to play Andrew Jackson and Pelion. Andrew Jackson defeated the Predators 12-1, while Fox Creek beat Pelion 21-20. After advancing into the Silver Bracket, Fox Creek dropped two more games, losing to Wando 14-3 and Indian Land 12-0.
“We’ve got a lot of girls hurt and banged up, so we need a week off,” Bell said. “This tournament was about playing a lot of players and seeing what they can do. We really need the time off to get healthy and get our players back to where they need to be.”
Fox Creek will take a break for a week and will return to play Ridge Spring-Monetta on Monday.