Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Head coach David Bell wanted to see how his team responded to some adversity. He got just that this week.
The Predators (21-7) took home the Class A District IV championship last week after beating Whitmire 4-3 in nine innings at Riverview Park. In that game starting pitcher Jada Simpson was battling the flu and not at her best, but the team was still able to rally. Other than No. 9 batter Emily Lingerfelt, no Predator hitter had more than one hit in the game. Whitmire, a team that put a lot of pressure on the Predators with bunts and timely hitting, was a good test for the team according to Bell.
“Whitmire is gutsy,” said Bell following the game. “They wouldn’t quit. They wouldn’t go away. They kept coming back and coming back. We got a couple of good calls, first time I think that’s went our way all year.”
After an interference call, in which a Wolverine runner ran into Fox Creek shortstop Betty Vignati, things slowly unraveled for the visitors. After a Sabrina Ladousier bunt moved Morgan Matthews to third, Harley Muniz hit a flare to shortstop. The ball was playable, but dropped by the Whitmire defender.
“My heart dropped, I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t feel my legs,” Muniz said after the game. “I was watching (Matthews’) face and I saw her scream and it made me so happy.”
Fox Creek’s next test was a road trip to Richburg against the District III champion, Lewisville. In an uncharacteristic game, Fox Creek ran itself out of contention. The Predators had opportunities, but saw four players thrown out at third and five thrown out at home. Simpson took her first loss in the playoffs, as the Lady Lions won 5-4.
There was no greater showcase of that than in the top of the fifth inning. Vignati led off with a single, she went 3-for-4 on the day, and stolen second base. She came around to score on a hit by Hannah Culpepper that bounced off the first base bag. After Simpson hit a double, Culpepper was gunned down by Lewisville running to third. On the very next pitch Nicole Gibson, who returned to the lineup in this game, hit a double that missed clearing the fence by just a few feet. However, Simpson was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Facing elimination, Fox Creek had to travel again on Monday night to play at McBee. Christy Buist, an underclassman who has mostly been a role player on the squad this season, had a monster day. She went 3-for-4 with six RBIs to lead the team to a 9-3 win. Simpson picked up the win, to move her record to 4-1 in these playoffs.
“We kind of woke up with our bats and our base running,” head coach David Bell said. “We were aggressive on the bases, we put pressure on them and they couldn’t handle it. If we played as well as we did today we would of beat Lewisville.”
Bell pointed to the defense of center fielder Gibson, who ended the game with a sliding catch, and Muniz at the hot corner. Bell said that despite McBee “ripping shot after shot” at Muniz, that she “was a vacuum at the corner.”
“Our baserunning tonight was as good as it has been all year,” Bell said. “There were some headfirst slides, there was no hesitation and it was a much better baserunning game. Our slogan tonight from our seniors was “Go for it,” and they were going for it in all aspects of the game. Winners take things; you have to go out and take it, and tonight we did.”
The win sets up a rematch with Lewisville at Richburg in a scheduled game on Wednesday. The Lions have had the Predators’ number all year, and in the elimination game Bell is looking to flip the script. If Fox Creek gets past Lewisville, they will advance to the Upper State championship for the second year in a row, where they will meet Dixie and need to win twice on Friday.
“I’m looking forward to the rematch,” Bell said of Lewisville. “They beat us three times, and I’ll be doggoned if they beat us four times in a season.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.