EVERETT- The big question heading into Fannett-Metal's PIAA Class A softball tournament first-round game against the Carmichaels Mikes at Everett Elementary School was who Tigers coach Stewart Miller would start at pitcher: Blaire Lauthers or Jenna Rhodes.
He kept the decision so close to his vest that even the two slingers didn't know who it would be.
"He waited until the very last minute to tell us who was pitching," Lauthers said.
But it was Miller's plan the whole time to use both pitchers, who have differing styles, to throw the Mikes off balance. And it worked.
Fannett-Metal beat Carmichaels, 2-1, with both pitchers getting their fair share of work.
The Tigers (21-4) will face Elk County Catholic in a quarterfinal game on Thursday, with site and time to be announced.
Rhodes, who uses more off-speed pitches, got the starting nod.
After a shaky start - she hit the first batter of the game, Erica Burns, and allowed an RBI single to Cameron Grimes two batters later - Rhodes settled in. She finished with six strikeouts and got out of a jam in the second inning, getting the final two outs on strikeouts with a runner on third.
Lauthers relieved her to start the fifth inning and never allowed a hit.
Throwing with noticeably more speed, Lauthers faced 10 batters in three innings (Caroline Cree reached base on an error) and racked up four strikeouts.
"Jenna and Blaire are ice for us
Lauthers brought in the Tigers' first run on a sacrifice fly to centerfield in the first inning, allowing Megan Dougherty to score from third.
In the fourth, it was Lauthers who scored the go-ahead run on a Morgan Burdge hit.
Burdge had the most success against the Mikes' Grimes,
Her first at bat resulted in a single to leadoff the second inning. She was stranded at third, however, after two sacrifice bunts.
When she came up in the fourth, Lauthers had already reached on a single and Burdge made her mark. She creamed a line drive over the head of centerfielder Megan Bayles, bringing Lauthers in and giving her a stand-up double.
"We heard she had a different kind of strategy on pitching, so we had to focus more on that," Burdge said. "After I saw that first knuckle curve, I had confidence in myself that I could do it. I think that helped a lot."
Miller said, "She can hit a ton. I wouldn't want to be in front of her when she gets ahold of one because she can hurt someone real bad."
When the Mikes connected on pitches, they couldn't get anything past the infield.
Their two hits came on a hard grounder up the center and a line drive down the leftfield line.
Tigers first baseman Melissa Zeger came up with the two biggest defensive plays, stretching twice while keeping her foot on the bag to record outs.
"They were pretty quiet," Miller said. "I think they only hit two to the outfield. And when you confine a team to that, your odds are better."
With the first game out of the way, the Tigers are concentrating on continuing the run they started after winning the District 5-A title.
Lauthers said, "I was telling Morgan out there in the first inning, 'I'm not as nervous as I was for the district game.' But I still have that little bit of an, 'Oh my gosh, this is a states game.' We have to win or we're done. I don't want to be done," Lauthers said. "So now that we're still going, I'm just glad we got this done."
Colin Stevens can be reached at email@example.com and 262-4819, or on Twitter @ColinStevens06.
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Burns 2b 2 0 0 0 Dougherty cf 2 1 0 0
Berardi ss 2 0 0 0 Cronell rf 3 0 0 0
Grimes p 3 0 1 1 Lauthers ss 1 1 1 1
Osborne c 3 0 0 0 Rhodes p 2 0 0 0
Hathaway rf 3 0 1 0 Burdge 2b 2 0 2 1
Bayles cf 2 0 0 0 Fields c 2 0 0 0
Brown 3b 3 0 0 0 Zeger 1b 2 0 0 0
Menhart dh 2 0 0 0 Hammond dh 2 0 1 0
C.Cree 1b 2 0 0 0 Laye 3b 0 0 0 0
Totals 22 1 2 1 Totals 16 2 4 2
Carmichaels 100 000 0 - 1
Fannett-Metal 100 100 x - 2
E-FM 1. LOB-Car 3; FM 4. 2B-Sarah Hathaway; Morgan Burdge, Melinda Hammond. SAC-Megan Bayles; Naomi Field, Melissa Zeger, Jenna Rhodes, Amanda Laye. SB-Caroline Cree; Megan Dougherty. CS-Cameron Grimes; Laye.
ip h r er bb so
Cameron Grimes (L) 5.1 4 2 2 3 3
Erica Burns .2 0 0 0 1 2
Jenna Rhodes (W,10-1) 4 2 1 1 0 6
Blaire Lauthers (S,2) 3 0 0 0 0 4
HBP-by Rhodes (Burns, Morgan Berardi).