The Lady Bearcats got all the energy they needed from a battery charged up for a stretch run.
Senior Jessica Bridges’ stellar performance in the circle was backed by a pair of two-run doubles from junior catcher Jillian Whitmire and Sherman stayed in the thick of the playoff race with a 7-0 victory over Princeton in District 10-5A action at Old Settlers Park on Friday night.
Sherman (7-17, 2-4), which hosts second-place Lovejoy on Tuesday night, is tied with Wylie East for fourth place and the final berth and just a game back of third-place Denison. The Lady Bearcats lost to both during the first half of district play so they need to beat at least one of them to potentially force a play-in.
But drama should be expected for this group, which could easily be fighting for first place. Two of their losses have been on walk-off homers and against East they had a 3-0 advantage going to the seventh before giving up six runs with each of those finishes coming in the span of a week.
All of that is in the past, however, and Sherman has three of the final four games at home and hopes to make the most of them.
“It’s about to come together. It’s on the edge,” Sherman head coach Reeca Huntsman said. “We can feel it. We’re in the hunt more than ever.”
Mercedes Rodriguez and Shelby Purser had the only hits for Princeton (6-18, 0-6), which is one more loss from being eliminated from playoff contention.
The first meeting between the two teams saw Sherman need a rally over the final two innings to pull out the 6-4 win. This one avoided any late-inning heroics.
“We went into this game with the thought that it shouldn’t be as close as it was the last time,” Huntsman said.
The Lady Panthers did next to nothing against Bridges, who allowed one ball out of the infield — and that one was barely a foot onto the right field grass.
Purser led off the third with a pop-fly single that dropped after a communication issue but she was stranded at first. The only other base runner was Rodriguez’s infield single to first base that was a one-hop smash off Kenna Ferguson which then bounced into foul territory with two outs in the fifth.
Bridges struck out 12, including the side in the sixth, and did not have a walk. She induced five groundouts and four pop-ups, including a nice snag by Ferguson in foul territory near the Sherman dugout, to finish off the shutout victory.
“She’s been building every week and getting better,” Huntsman said. “That’s what we want at this point in the season.”
Whitmire did the heavy lifting at the plate, making the most of her opportunities as the cleanup hitter.
“Finding that person is the key,” Huntsman said. “We’ve had people on all year. We’ve struggled to get them in. That’s been our weakness all year. When that falls into place, we’ll be good.”
The Lady Bearcats had runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings before finally breaking through in the third. Miranda Farias beat out an infield single to second with one out and Bridges’ bid for a home run was a half a foot short with a double at the base of the left-field fence.
Whitmire laced a double off third baseman Chloe Hill’s glove into foul territory and the Lady Bearcats were up 2-0. Mackenzie Clark, who was 3-for-4, followed with a single near the left-field line and when the ball got away on the transfer out of the glove, Whitmire continued home for another run.
Sherman broke the game open an inning later by nearly batting around. Emma Jones and Jessica Shrum opened the fourth with singles and Kaitlin Caver walked to load the bases.
A comebacker to the pitcher led to a force at home before Bridges extended the lead with a sacrifice fly to right.
Whitmire then sent a screamer past short which went all the way to the wall and made it a 6-0 advantage. She scored from second on Clark’s RBI single to center and Sherman went on to finish with its top offensive output in district play and best in 13 games.
The Lady Cats finished with 10 hits and had another five reach base.
“I keep hoping we’ll get into a rhythm,” Huntsman said. “A lot of it is our inconsistency. We’ll get there. The last half of district would be the time to do it.”