BAILEY – Halfway through Thursday’s game, Wilson Fike was desperate to do something against Southern Nash pitcher Olivia Lamm, so Golden Demons coach Teresa Glover told her players to practice a drill she invented behind the dugout, hoping it would work before it was too late.
Fike’s bats arrived just in time. The No. 3 seed Golden Demons scored three runs in the top of the seventh to beat second-seeded Southern Nash, 4-3, in the Big East Conference Tournament semifinals at Southern Nash High School.
Already a slow pitcher, Lamm’s off-speed pitches were working. After scoring a run in the first inning, Fike went without a hit for the next five innings.
In an attempt to force her players to wait on the ball, Glover made a soft-toss drill, but instead of hitting an under-handed toss, the players had to wait for it to go up and come down, then try to swing just over top of the ball.
“It’s a drill I think about that’ll help make them stay back and wait,” Glover said. “That’s what was giving us trouble. That pitcher, Olivia, she’s a slow pitcher, and it’s hard for the girls to adjust to her.”
Fike (10-6, 6-4 Big East) took a 1-0 lead on Amber Baker’s RBI double in the first, but Baker walked the first two Southern Nash hitters she faced in the bottom half of the inning. Madison Bell cleared the bases with a triple, then scored on Amanda Wood’s RBI groundout to give the Ladybirds (8-11, 7-3) a 3-1 lead.
The score remained unchanged until the top of the seventh.
Up until that point, the Golden Demons were kept off balance, and the hard-hit balls they did manage went foul or right at Southern Nash third baseman Kayla Moore.
But to start the seventh, the Demons drew two walks and found an elusive hit to load the bases.
A groundout scored one run, and Riley Bane’s RBI double down the left-field line gave the Golden Demons a 4-3 lead they didn’t lose.
After Southern Nash’s three first-inning runs, no other Ladybirds went as far as third base.
“What I told my girls from day one, regardless of the score, even if we’re up, we don’t relax, we have to keep hitting,” Southern Nash coach Christy Bailey-Reams said. “We scored the first three in the first inning, (and) we put the ball in play with hard shots, they just didn’t fall.”
The Ladybirds are comfortably in the playoffs, but they don’t know where or against whom they will play.
Southern Nash will play Wilson Hunt at 5 p.m. Saturday to determine who will receive the league’s No. 1 slot in the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
An upset in the other semifinal – No. 5 Nash Central rallied with four runs in the top of the seventh to beat No. 1 Wilson Hunt, 7-6 – means the conference championship game will have even more at stake than normal.
The Big East receives only three guaranteed spots, and because the top two teams are out of the tournament, Fike and Nash Central are playing for the third playoffs spot.
The loser almost certainly won’t make the playoffs.
“We’ve been through so many ifs, ands or buts, so many scenarios this season that it’s crazy,” Bailey-Reams said. “It is literally down to the last out of every game. We’ll just have to let it play out.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org