The senior-loaded Whittell softball team waited too long for this kind of season to leave any doubts on the field Friday.
The fourth-seeded Warriors swept fifth-seeded Incline in the first round of Division III playoffs, a doubleheader on Saturday at Whittell High School.
With Amanda Harris on the mound, Whittell cruised to a 9-1 win in Game 1 and a 12-2 mercy win in Game 2. The back-to-back wins advanced the Warriors to the next round of playoffs in Ely while ending Incline’s playoff run.
Whittell 9, Incline 1
Before Friday’s doubleheader, Incline held a 2-1 season advantage against Whittell. The Warriors, however, had a higher ranking and the recent memory of a 24-10 win over the Highlanders on their side.
Still, by all rights, Round 1 of the playoffs looked like it would be a close one. And evenly matched is exactly how it started — tied 1-1 heading into the third.
Two Whittell errors gave Incline a brief 1-0 lead before senior Nicki Simon erased it by drawing a walk and making her way home on a passed ball in the second inning.
Meanwhile, Whittell’s starter was just getting warmed up. Harris was on her way to a no-hitter, and the Warriors were about to add some insurance.
Whittell notched three more runs in the third. Incline never recovered, and Harris never faltered. The right-hander totaled 10 strikeouts, and other than a leadoff walk, pitched a near-perfect game. Her offense continued to bring in support.
The Warriors added another run in the fifth when Brianna Brewer doubled and Emily Harris grounded her home, and four more in the sixth with key RBIs from Emily Harris and Elizabeth Anderson.
Whittell 12, Incline 2
The Highlanders struck first in Game 2. Starting pitcher Sarah Wright opened the second inning with a leadoff double to deep right field. Kortney Solis followed up, bring Wright home on a double to left.
Wright then retired the side to again briefly hold onto a 1-0 lead heading into the third.
But Whittell started to make some noise in the third, capitalizing on four consecutive walks with no outs. The score now tied 1-1, Emily Harris sacrificed a second run in with a sharp grounder to second. Ferris did the same, with a sac bunt to push Whittell out to a 3-1 lead.
Incline narrowed the lead to 3-2 in the fourth. Molly Franklin singled in Wright, who had reached on an error, but it was the last run for the Highlanders.
Whittell added five more runs in the bottom of the fourth, again benefiting from a string of five walks and a few pass balls with no outs.
The game ended on the 10-run mercy rule during the fifth inning after the Warriors notched another four runs.
Amanda Harris limited Incline to four hits in five innings, walked one and recorded three runs to help her own cause. Gianna Miller, Anderson and Jasmine Munn all came across the plate twice.
Along with Wright and Solis, Caroline May and Caitlin May also recorded hits for the Highlanders.