The senior-loaded Whittell softball team waited too long for this kind of season to leave any doubts on the field Friday.
The No. 4 Warriors swept No. 5 Incline in the first round of Division III playoffs, a doubleheader on Friday at Whittell High School. With Amanda Harris on the mound and Emily Harris behind the plate, Whittell cruised to a 9-1 win in Game 1 and a 12-2 mercy win in Game 2. The back-to-back wins advance the Warriors to the next round of playoffs in Ely, Nev., on Friday, and end Incline’s playoff run
Whittell 9, Incline 1
Before Friday’s doubleheader, Incline held a 2-1 season advantage against Whittell. The Warriors, however, had a higher ranking and the recent memory of a 24-10 win over the Highlanders on their side.
Still, by all rights, Round 1 of the playoffs looked like it would be a close one. And evenly matched is exactly how it started — tied 1-1 heading into the third.
Two Whittell errors gave Incline a brief 1-0 lead before senior Nicki Simon erased it by drawing a walk and making her way home on a pass ball in the second inning.
Meanwhile, Whittell’s starter was just getting warmed up. Amanda was on her way to a no-hitter, and the Warriors were about to add some insurance.
Whittell notched three more runs in the third. Amanda wore one for the team, Emily doubled her into scoring position and Kendal Ferris knocked them both home with a double to left. Simon followed suit, singling Ferris home to extend Whittell’s lead to 4-1.
Incline never recovered, and Amanda never faltered. The right-hander totaled 10 strikeouts, and other than a leadoff walk, pitched a near-perfect game. Her offense continued to bring in support.
The Warriors added another run in the fifth when Brianna Brewer doubled and Emily grounded her home, and four more in the sixth with key RBIs from Emily and Elizabeth Anderson.
Whittell 12, Incline 2
The Highlanders struck first in Game 2. Starting pitcher Sarah Wright opened the second inning with a leadoff double to deep right field. Kortney Solis followed up, bringing Wright home on a double to left.
Wright then retired the side to again briefly hold onto a 1-0 lead heading into the third.
But Whittell started to make some noise in the third, capitalizing on four consecutive walks with no outs. The score now tied 1-1, Emily sacrificed a second run in with a sharp grounder to second. Ferris did the same, with a sac bunt to push Whittell out to a 3-1 lead.
Incline narrowed the lead to 3-2 in the fourth. Molly Franklin singled in Wright, who had reached on an error, but it would be the last run for the Highlanders.
Whittell added five more runs in the bottom of the fourth, again benefiting from a string of five walks and a few pass balls with no outs. Emily and Simon each singled in a run before the Highlanders got out of the inning.
The game ended on the 10-run mercy rule during the fifth inning after the Warriors notched another four runs. Ferris hit in one of those runs, but the rest came in on pass balls and walks.
Amanda limited Incline to four hits in five innings, walked one and recorded three runs to help her own cause. Gianna Miller, Anderson and Jasmine Munn all came across the plate twice.
“Incline’s pitcher throws very slow. So we had to adjust or timing at the plate,” Whittell coach Dave Galicia said. “The girls did a great job as you can tell by the final scores. Kendal Ferris had a great weekend as well as Amanda Harris. Kendal was absolutely solid at second base in both games. And once again Amanda had control of the game as pitcher. In the outfield, freshman Daria Sharon was flawless.”
Along with Wright and Solis, Caroline May and Caitlin May also recorded hits for the Highlanders.
UP NEXT: Whittell will continue its playoff push in Ely, Nev., where the Warriors will face Yerington, last year’s state champions, on Friday at 11 a.m.
“We should do well against all three teams at zone finals. We have seen all the teams during the season, it will come down to who does the basics the best, and who makes the fewest mistakes,” Galicia said.
Incline’s run came to an end with the Friday’s losses.