Saks put together hit after hit together, scoring seven runs early to jump out to a big lead before White Plains could blink. Saks scored one run in the first, four in the second and two in the third.
“It was an amazing job by my girls. They came in focused,” Saks coach Michelle Lively said. “I thought they were more relaxed than ever, than we’ve ever played them. We’re always so hyped up about playing them because we know we can beat them, but I feel like we work ourselves up too much. Today, I thought they were just relaxed, and they did an amazing job being aggressive at the plate.”
As Saks held its big lead, White Plains was unable to hit Saks ace Taylor West, who White Plains (33-14) had beaten five times in a row after losing the first meeting this season.
“I’m racking my brain trying to figure out. I honestly don’t think we came mentally ready,” White Plains coach Rachel Ford said. “Coming into the tournament I thought we were mentally ready and obviously we weren’t. I was wrong about that.
“We still have some girls that are shaky when the pressure is on, but we’re going to go back to work this summer and try to fix some things.”
White Plains got on the board in the bottom of the third, after trailing 7-0. Sophie Taylor and Anna Snider singled back-to-back before Carley Wood doubled both runners in.
“I think some of our hot hitters got up at the right time and got hits,” Ford said. “They did what they knew they were supposed to do. That was simple ‘see ball, hit ball,’ and it showed that we could score runs.”
White Plains was unable to do any more damage. Morgan Cobb, Snider and Wood each recorded two hits.
Although White Plains has been ousted by its area rival two of the past three years, the Lady Wildcats are making improvements toward getting to the level of winning the school’s first state championship. Ford attributed the strides to her three seniors — Mikayla Owen, Olivia Taylor and Kira Kihlstadius.
“All three of them have been super loyal to me and my program,” Ford said. “We have a lot of players quit along the way because I work them so hard and they’re not willing to work. But those three girls never questioned it and they were all in all the time.
“They’re the reason we have a successful program. They were here when things weren’t so hot and they’ve done the right things all the way through. It’s going to benefit us down the road and they don’t even realize that now.”
The three seniors, who have played since middle school, were a part of White Plains’ five straight Class 3A, Area 8 regular season and tournament championship teams. The Lady Wildcats have also been the top qualifier out of their area the past three seasons.
Despite the disappointment that ensued Friday morning, White Plains will return the field next season with seven returning starters.
“I’m whispering that in my girls’ ears right now,” Ford said. “It starts this summer doing the little things. And all the work we’ve put it, we have to put in more to get over the hump.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.