Honaker’s Emily Kendrick and Eastside’s Lindsay Dean both tossed one-hit shutouts to lead their respective teams to today’s 5 p.m. championship clash.
Kendrick struck out 11 as the Lady Tigers eliminated Clintwood 5-0 in the opener. Dean whiffed six in the Lady Spartans’ 9-0 victory over J.I. Burton in the nightcap.
Eastside (20-3) and Honaker (18-2) both have guaranteed berths into Tuesday’s VHSL Group A, Division 1 state quarterfinals. Region C’s Holston and Northwood are the semifinal winners on the opposite side of the bracket.
“It doesn’t really matter whether you play D-1 or D-2. You’ve still got to go out there and play hard,” said Dean, who helped herself by going 2-for-4 with two RBIs, including a sprawling single that rattled the fence in center field.
Eastside won last year’s Division 2 state championship, establishing the Lady Spartans as the prohibitive favorite to clear the D-1 table in 2013. It also set the stage for an upset, a fact not lost on coach Suzi Atwood.
The only outward sign of jitters was two errors that weren’t particularly costly. From Atwood’s perspective, the pressure was palpable.
“It’s nicer being the underdog kind of, because you don’t feel as much pressure. But I could feel it today. I felt a little tight. We all did,” said Atwood.
Not letting it show was Sam Cole, who was downright loosey-goosey in the leadoff spot. She hit 3-for-4 and legged out three runs. Erin Stanley added a two-RBI single.
“We’ve worked all year on our hitting. We trust our infield, we trust our outfield. Our main goal is hitting. If we can’t hit we can’t win,” said Cole, who is entertaining softball offers from King, Virginia Intermont and Pikeville.
J.I. Burton committed nine errors. So many things fell into place for the Lady Raiders (11-13) leading up to Wednesday, coach Jon Bright hated to see it fall apart the way it did.
“They did everything they needed to do and, the bottom line is, we didn’t,” said Bright.
In the opener, a two-RBI double in the first inning by Marissa Hughes put the onus on Clintwood sophomore pitcher Erika Counts (11-11) , who gave the Lady Greenwave shutout innings in the second, third and fourth.
The Lady Tigers (18-2) added a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Thanks to Kendrick (15-1), those runs were more or less ornamental. The Honaker pitcher also had a good day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.
“I thought Erika did her part to keep us in the ballgame, but as has been the case all season ... they get a couple early runs on us, we get our chances later on but can’t get that key hit,” said Clintwood coach David Vanover.