Northwestern opened the softball season with a 4-2 win at Blythewood on Monday, putting a damper on the return of Dwayne Jones as a head coach in the Midlands.
Jones guided Spring Valley to the Class 4A state championship series eight times in 18 seasons through 2004, winning three state championships and more than 430 games. He returned to coaching as Bucky Ware’s assistant at Blythewood in 2012.
Both teams had eight hits; the difference was the Trojans made the most of their scoring opportunities while the veteran Bengals did not against NW junior pitcher Kori Wancheck.
“We struck out 14 times and left 10 runners on base,” said Jones. “That’s not a receipt for success. I have to give (Wancheck) all the credit because she shut us down when it mattered the most. But it’s early and it will only be a worthless loss if we don’t learn from it.”
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Blythewood won’t have much time to recover. The Bengals draw another ace hurler – Hailey Elkins - on Wednesday at Dutch Fork.
Blythewood had two golden chances to break out offensive. The Begals loaded the bases in the bottom of the first inning, but managed to score just one run. Trailing 4-1 in the fifth, the Bengals had runners on first and third with no outs before Wancheck slammed the door with three whiffs.
The Trojans from Rock Hill tied the score at 1-1 on a run-scoring single in the second by Cassie Wancheck, Kori’s freshman sister. Catcher Rachel Marion broke the deadlock with a booming solo homo run to left-center field. Kori Wancheck delivered the winning blow herself – a ringing, tow-run double to center field in the fifth.
Blythewood’s hit total was a bit deceiving in that five of the safeties were of the infield variety.
Shortstop Ansley Gilstrap had the Bengals best offensive performance with two hits and reaching base four times. She was hit by a pitch and scored in the first on a field’s choice grounder off the bat of Lori Owens. Gilstrap drove in Maggie Herrera with a single in the sixth.