By Garth Shanklin
A bit of small ball got the Williamsburg Lady Wildcats’ softball team to the state semifinals, but the long ball sent the team to the title game.
Kacey Smith and Carly Wagers launched three-run homers, propelling the Lady Wildcats past Carey High School 10-0 in the state semifinal, held at Akron’s Firestone Stadium on Thursday, June 1.
The Lady Wildcats did all their damage in the first three innings of play. In the bottom of the first, Peyton Fisher led off the inning with a double to right field. Faith Golden walked, and two batters later Kacey Smith hit a fly ball to right field. Carey outfielder Caitie Carter dropped the ball, allowing both runners to score.
Hailey Speeg started the bottom of the second with a single. Fisher followed with a base hit of her own. Golden knocked in a run with a double off the left-field wall, giving Williamsburg a 3-0 lead.
Wagers came to the plate after having popped up in her first at-bat. She hit the ball a bit farther this time, launching her 23rd home run of the season to put the Lady Wildcats on top 6-0. The junior said her confidence in the Lady Wildcats behind her in the order helps her in the batter’s box.
“Hitting home runs is definitely my thing this year, I guess you could say,” Wagers said. “Having the girls hitting behind me is a confidence booster for me. On the mound, I just do my work. I know the girls are behind me. Peyton got that ground ball with ease. Our fielders are amazing, and it’s great to know that I can believe in every single one of them behind me.”
A bunt single in the third inning for Carey was the only hit allowed by Wagers through the first three innings. In the bottom of the frame, Williamsburg put more runs on the board.
Fisher doubled into right-center with one out. One passed ball later, Golden walked. Wagers singled in Fisher, and Smith smacked a three-run home run into left field, putting Williamsburg ahead for good 10-0.
Fisher tallied three hits in four at-bats and scored three runs. Golden walked twice and doubled while also crossing the plate three times. Wagers drove in four runs on two hits, including the home run. Smith knocked in three runs for Williamsburg.
Wagers tossed a complete game, allowing only two hits and three walks. She struck out 11 on just 90 pitches. Carey head coach Teresa Gillig was very complimentary of Williamsburg’s junior hurler.
“She’s incredible,” Gillig said. “That is probably the fastest, hardest pitcher I’ve faced in my four years as a head coach. She’s the real deal, she’s going to go far in college somewhere. You have to give her a lot of credit, that’s the toughest we’ve faced so far.”
Carey senior pitcher Dani Berardinelli-Clark echoed that sentiment, pinpointing what it was that made Wagers tough to hit.
“She’s hitting her spots and the speed was there,” Berardinelli-Clark said. “She’s just an overall great player.”
Despite only four of the 15 outs coming from batted balls, Williamsburg head coach Rick Healey said the team’s defense takes advantage of the chances they do get.
“We’ve played consistently all year, as far as [Wagers] throwing well,” Healey said. “She’s got a great second baseman that cover the whole right side and a shortstop who covers the whole left side, and they believe in each other and they have each other’s back. [Wagers] throws so well that they probably don’t get as many balls as they’d like, but when they are put in play…early on, they hit a rocket at [Fisher] at shortstop, she knocked it down and threw the girl out. When they believe in each other, it makes a big difference.”
With the victory, the Lady Wildcats advance to the state finals against Danville High School on Saturday, June 3 at 1 p.m. at Firestone Stadium. The two teams do have one common opponent this season: Fairfield. Williamsburg defeated Fairfield 5-2 in a regular-season contest April 15, while Danville’s 7-1 win over the Lady Indians came in the regional finals on May 27.
Healey said the Lady Wildcats scheduled games in the regular season specifically to prepare them for teams like Danville in the postseason.
“We changed our schedule a little bit this year and played some very tough teams,” Healey said. “We put those in intentionally to try to build confidence and see the kind of pitching. I didn’t get to watch Danville a lot, but they’re a very good team. I believe in our girls, and I believe that some of the pitching we’ve seen this year is as good or better than that. We’re going to come out and do our best.”