White Knoll averaged 6.5 runs per game on the way to winning the Class 4A District 5 softball championship, but the 10th-ranked Timberwolves did little of note against Bluffton ace Courtney Smith in the first round of the Lower State tournament on Saturday.
Smith fired a two-hitter with 12 strikeouts to lead the visiting Bobcats to a 6-1 win.
Bluffton (20-5) moves on to the semifinals Monday against the Wando-Summerville winner. White Knoll (22-8) faces an elimination game on the road.
“(Smith’s) a good pitcher,” White Knoll coach David Smith said. “We had a scouting report, but she was considerably better than what we heard. We really haven’t faced a pitcher this season with such a good rise ball. She used it effectively early in the count, and then kept pounding it inside. Hopefully, we’ll get another chance to battle her in Bluffton next Friday. Our season isn’t over just yet.”
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Megan Anderson and Kelsey Campbell had the only WK hits off Smith. Anderson scored the T-Wolves’ lone run (unearned) in the sixth after the Bobcats had a 5-0 lead.
Bluffton, a first-year 4A team that pulled off a doubleheader sweep to upset third-ranked, defending Lower State champion Carolina Forest in the District 7 final Wednesday, backed Smith’s pitching with an 11-hit attack against White Knoll senior Savannah Terrapin.
The Bobcats provided Smith with all the support required with a three-run burst in the fourth with the big hit being a two-out, two-run, opposite-field double by No. 9 hitter Jordyn Parker. Kim Kerby belted a home run to right in the fifth for Bluffton’s other offensive highlight.
Parker and Michaela Manley had two hits apiece for Bluffton, but Lilli Otten led the hit parade with three hits. Manley and Otten both scored twice.
“We came in here thinking we could dictate terms if Courtney hit her pitches and she sure did,” Bluffton coach Bill Ball said. “Even though this our first year in 4A, we were confident we could compete right away because we packed our schedule with as many 4A teams as possible the last few seasons. Coming back to win the district has made us even more confident.”
Bluffton never won a district championship in 3A.
White Knoll is looking for avoid a second-straight 0-2 Lower State showing under Smith after winning its sixth district title in 13 varsity seasons. The Timberwolves have never made it to the state championship series.