|Lady Panthers go into playoffs with big win over James Bowie|
|Joseph Elerson | News-Telegram Sports Writer|
MOUNT PLEASANT - The second place representative in District 14-A is set, courtesy of the North Hopkins Lady Panthers.
After being tied with the Simms James Bowie Lady Pirates with 5-3 records in district play after the regular season finale last Friday, the two met on Monday to decide who would represent the district along with the Rivercrest Lady Rebels in the playoffs starting next week.
Coach Jim Westbrook's squad defeated Simms James Bowie 9-1 behind a complete game three-hitter from senior Laci Palmer.
"Laci is always consistent. She throws three pitches and they were all working tonight, the coach said. "We were keeping them off stride. They are a good fast-ball hitting team, and we didn't give them any tonight so it worked out good for us."
Palmer said due to the fact that this game was for a playoff spot helped them to prepare for the game better.
"Games like this help me play better because I know that this is a win or die situation for us," Palmer said. "We are going to state, and this is my last year so we are going to state."
Westbrook believes the Lady Panthers' first round opponent will be Merit Bland, but a site and time have yet to be determined.
"I think it is going to be Bland in the playoffs and the last time we played they beat us 8-5, but I didn't have Laci due to an injury," the coach said. "This time should be different because Laci is pitching really well right now and as soon as we can get three of our players done with track we should be in good shape for the playoffs."
North Hopkins jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, starting with back-to-back singles from Ashley Wilson and Maegan Baxter, a sacrifice bunt from Ashley Hooten, and an error that put Palmer on first and allowed Wilson to score for a 1-0 lead.
Williams then gave North Hopkins a 2-0 advantage on an RBI single that drove in Baxter, and Elizabeth McPherson smacked a two-run double to the right field wall for the 4-0 lead.
The Lady Panthers extended their lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning on a two-run single by Palmer, scoring Cayla Newkirk and Baxter.
In the bottom of the fifth, North Hopkins scored two more runs off of Ashlea May as Newkirk drove in Sara Weir from third on a sacrifice bunt, and then Wilson drove in Chancey Harber for an 8-0 score.
North Hopkins rounded out their scoring in the bottom of the sixth as Weir smacked an RBI double to score Jessi Mannis for a 9-0 lead. Weir went 2-for-4 at the plate for the Lady Panthers.
"That is really good for me at the plate, and we need to be able to hit better and work on some areas in terms of bunting and other things before the playoffs start," Weir said.
James Bowie was able to get a run in the top of the seventh inning as Meagan Parker scored from first base on a throwing error by Hooten for the 9-1 final.
Wilson went 3-for-5 to lead the way for the Lady Panthers, as McPherson was 3-4 with two RBI, Harber and Palmer each went 2-for-4, and Baxter was 2-for-3 in the game.
Stephanie Riddell, Parker, and Jessica Zacarias each had a hit for the Lady Pirates.
"We are going to work hard, and we have got to keep our minds straight and stay focused," Weir said. "I think if we can continue to hit some more and our defensive stays as good as it is, we can make it into the state tournament this year."We are going to go to state.