BIRTHRIGHT — Pitching and defense.
It might sound like a simple formula for success, but it’s the message delivered repeatedly by North Hopkins head softball coach Jim Westbrook.
The Lady Panthers, 18-5, head into the Class 1A Region II playoff finals against Lindsay the best-of-three series beginning today at 7:30 p.m. at McKinney High School, Game 2 and 3 will be played at the same location at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday.
“If you play good defense and have good pitchers who don’t issue walks, you can win some games,” Westbrook said. “We scratch out a few runs. Pitching and defense have been carrying us all year. That’s why we won the series over Valley Mills.”
The coach was quick to point out how his team philosophy paid dividends against Valley Mills.
“Our pitcher (Chastin Smiddy) had 10 strikeouts and no walks Saturday,” Westbrook said. “The Valley Mills pitcher had just two strikeouts. That’s eight more plays they had to make. We like to put ball in play, roll somewhere and see what happens.”
Westbrook talks with amazement about how his team has been able to meet every challenges along the road that they hope ends at the state tournament in Austin.
“Every game it’s a different girl stepping up,” Westbrook said. “In one game it was Courtney Loper who made some big plays. In our last game it was Jessica Harry at shortstop who made some defensive plays.”
The pitching is usually divided between standout seniors Harry and Smiddy. Each very accurate with pitches and issuing very few walks.
Smiddy leads all hitters with a .610 batting average; Loper hit .570 in district Crissy Hall pounds the ball at a .452 clip while Harry has a .410 average with two homers. Catcher Liz Shaw and left fielder Cheyenne Duke each hit .372 with Tana Hall posting a .340 average and P.K. Harlin hitting .300.
The Lindsay Lady Knights, champions of District 9-1A, are the next challenge. The school has just had softball four years, but the squad has reached the playoffs each year.
Lindsay (25-7-2) downed Meridian 11-5, 3-1 in the recent regional semifinals. In that win Taylor Atkins got the pitching victory and Bethani Taylor was 3-for-4 and the top hitter in the game.
“They have good team speed. They are a disciplined team with a really good pitcher and third baseman,” Westbrook said. “I saw them earlier when they played Collinsville. They’re good, they would not be in the regional finals unless they were a very good team.”
Westbrook said his team is up for the game vs. Lindsay today at 7:30 p.m., just for the chance to make it to the state tournament.
“Just eight teams are left playing in Class 1A softball,” Westbrook said. “We’re still going and we’re going to be doing our best to make it to the state tournament. That is everybody’s goal at the start of the year, now it is within our reach.”
North Hopkins roster
00 Jessica Harry SS/P 12
8 Crissy Hall 2B 10
9 Cheyenne Duke OF 11
11 Virginia Thomas OF 12
20 Liz Shaw C 11
21 Grace Cox OF 12
32 Tana Hall OF 11
33 Lacey Breedlove OF/IF 11
41 PK Harlin 3B 10
43 Chastin Smiddy SS/P 12
45 Courtney Loper 1B 11
Head coach- Jim Westbrook
Asst. coach - Lisa Vos
North Hopkins 18-5 district 12-1A champs; first round bye
Area- North Hopkins over Dodd City, 7-0, 10-0; regional quarterfinal-North Hopkins over Sam Rayburn, 3-1; regional semifinal- North Hopkins over Valley Mills, 8-2, 3-2
Lindsay, 9-1A champion; first round bye; beat Saltillo, 12-1, area; defeated Merit Bland, 3-0 regional quarterfinals; beat Meridian, 11-5, 3-1 in regional semifinals. Head coach Robin Hess.
North Hopkins vs. Lindsay,
Region II Class 1A softball finals
McKinney High School
Game 1- Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2- Saturday, 1 p.m.
Game 3- Saturday, 3 p.m., if needed.
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