The Cowan softball coaching staff held ace pitcher Shelby Wilcoxon out of a doubleheader sweep at the hands of Daleville last Saturday.
Tuesday in the Liberty Christian Sectional-opening rematch with the Broncos, Wilcoxon showed the sort of impact she could have for the Class A No. 4 Blackhawks.
Wilcoxon allowed two hits in the final six innings, and Cowan rode a burst of small-ball runs to a 6-1 victory to end Daleville’s season. The Blackhawks advanced to meet Liberty Christian at around 7 o’clock today in the semifinals.
Wilcoxon didn’t pitch in the teams’ weekend meeting because her coaches didn’t want to give the Broncos (11-10) a fresh look at her a few days before the sectional meeting.
“It was just kind of lose today and win tomorrow, and I’m OK with that.” Wilcoxon said of Saturday.
In the circle Tuesday, she kept the Broncos at bay, striking out eight with a single walk in a 105-pitch outing. Only one runner reached second after the first inning, when the Broncos ground out an unearned run on a Jordyn Marshel RBI single.
The Blackhawks (19-9) put the pressure on Daleville’s defense early with bunts and aggressive base running. Cowan’s first run scored on an overthrown pickoff to third in the opening frame, and a bunt single and error on a grounder set up a walked-in run in the second.
But that was only a prelude to what transpired in the third.
Cowan’s Jasmine Conner beat out a bunt single to advance Mallory Bruner to second. Then Bruner broke for third and beat the throw. Conner went to second to draw another throw, which she beat, as Bruner came home on the unorthodox play.
“Once you get small ball rolling, that’s the kind of thing that happens all the time,” Daleville coach Dick Hines said. “Once we did not execute well the first few times, that’s like blood to sharks.”
Allie McCreery added a two-run home run in the fifth, and Cowan closed out the scoring with an unearned run in the seventh.
The Blackhawks had closed the regular season with a rough patch of four losses in five games, but even as the Broncos outscored them 15-2 Saturday, the coaches and players already had sights set on the postseason.
“We knew all along what we’re capable of,” said Cowan coach Jeff Berger. “It was a hard Saturday to play them two games, but it didn’t mean anything.
“We were looking at the big picture.”