Saturday, April 27, 2013
Though the Jackets finished their up-and-down season with a loss, they achieved their goal make the playoffs.
North Augusta High School’s varsity softball team (13-10, 5-5 Region 5-AAAA) wrapped up the season with a tough loss at home against Midland Valley, 7-5, on senior night. To start out the week, the team thumped Aiken, 13-0, and fell 3-2 against Dutch Fork in nine innings.
However, now in the playoffs as a No. 4 seed, records go out the window. The team will have to win to extend its season, and that starts Thursday at Carolina Forest.
Consistency, which has alluded the Jackets all year, is something that the team will need more of going forward.
"If we play like we did Thursday, (the extra innings loss against Dutch Fork), though we lost, we’ll be a tough team to knock out," Derrick Quinn, North Augusta head coach, said. "Four of our losses in the region have come by a total of four runs. We very easily could have been playing for a region championship, believe it or not, so we’re not too far away. I think if we play softball like we know how, we’ll be a tough team to beat."
With so many close games, and such a daunting region slate, the Jackets will be one of the most battle-tested teams to appear in the playoffs. It’s also important to keep in mind this team, which features only two seniors, is very young and trying to find its way.
"They’ve been in a lot of pressure games," Quinn said. "They haven’t broken apart and they’ve responded well. Of course, we’re just one big hit away or one big defensive play away from being a very, very good team. This experience can’t hurt them."
The long road trip to Myrtle Beach is something that Quinn also believes won’t hurt his team.
"Being in North Augusta, we have so many region games in Columbia and travel has never been a problem; We’re just used to it," he said. "It’s a long way for anyone to come here, and it’s a long way to anywhere. The only problem with the long trip is me driving the bus; it’s not a problem for the girls."
On the mound against Carolina Forest will be the Jackets unquestioned ace Meghan Whitfield. Whitfield has been a stopper of sorts for the Jackets, and the junior will be the biggest key to the game.
"If we’re going to win these district playoffs, it’ll be on her," Quinn said. "How we goes is how Meghan goes. Against Aiken, she pitched a no-hitter, and in nine innings against Dutch Fork, she gave up five hits and three runs, two of which were in the ninth. If she’s doing what she’s supposed to, she gives us a chance to win and that’s all I ever ask out of her."