Saks came out swinging the bats early and put pressure on White Plains, and three early errors helped Saks eliminate the Wildcats 7-2 in Saturday’s early action in the state softball tournament.
Seventh-ranked Saks (33-16-1), the defending Class 3A champion, went on to lose to Winfield in a noon elimination game. White Plains finished its season 33-15.
The Saks-White Plains game marked the seventh clash between Calhoun County rivals this season. Saks won for the second time but on the biggest stage, a place where Saks won their state title in 2012.
“It was an amazing job by my girls,” Saks coach Michelle Lively said. “They came in focused. 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.”
White Plains had won its last five games against Saks.
“It’s frustrating on this end for sure,” White Plains coach Rachel Ford said. “Odds tell you you’re not going to beat a team all the time, especially when they’re a good team, but again, it all comes down to us changing our mind state at this level.
“We might get a little tense or have pressure put on it when we know we should just play our game, but it is frustrating to get beat by a team that you know you can beat.”
Saks mounted 12 hits, and putting the ball in play put the pressure on White Plains. Three early errors helped Saks built a 7-0 lead by the third inning.
“That’s what you have to do,” Lively said. “I’ve said it from day one, since we played them, we’ve got to hit the ball and put it in play and put it in their hands, because you never know.
“There are going to be errors made, but you’ve got to produce hits.”
Saks’ Tiffany Springer went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs. Kelly Kilgore and Raegan Nunez had two hits apiece, and Kilgore and Taylor West drove in two runs apiece.
“It was very big, because usually, when we play against them, we don’t hit against them,” West said. “We hit the ball today. It helped us out a lot.”
West, known more for her pitching, struck out 14 batters to pass the 600-strikeout milestone for the season. She entered the tournament needing 34 to reach 600 and took 602 into the Winfield game.
“It means a lot, because I was trying to beat my record from last year,” said West, who finished with 610 strikeouts, the fourth-highest single-season total in state fast-pitch history. “I beat it by about a hundred.”
White Plains got two-hit performances from Morgan Cobb and Anna Snider, and Carley Wood drove in both Wildcat runs with a double over the head of Saks left-fielder Tayler Teague in the third inning.
Snider struck out seven batters, but she was pitching under duress for much of the early part of the game while West cruised with the early lead.
“Taylor West did a great job today, and I want to give Saks props,” Ford said. “I’m so proud of them. They haven’t been successful this year, but they came out ready to beat us and they did.”
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star. Star preps writer Brandon Miller contributed information for this story.