MOROCCO | On a cold Tuesday afternoon Wheeler junior pitcher Nickole Finch was throwing nothing but heat against host North Newton.
Finch allowed one hit and fanned 14 in leading the Bearcats to a 3-0 victory over the Times softball preseason No. 10 Spartans in the Greater South Shore Conference opener for both teams.
“She gave up a bloop single on a windy day. Other than that, she was perfect,” Wheeler coach Marc Bruner said. “Overpowering, I thought.”
Finch wasn’t affected by the mid-30s temperature.
“No, I was born in Michigan,” she said. “I’m used to this weather.”
Finch said she stuck to her fastball for the most part and was in a groove. She retired the final 19 batters she faced.
“I did a lot of offseason work,” she said.
Wheeler (1-0, 1-0) scored the only run it would need when Alex Sanchez singled in the third inning and eventually scored on an error. Sanchez drove in another run in the fifth to put Wheeler up 2-0.
Kristen Settele added a run-scoring single for insurance in the seventh inning.
“Defensively, we were really good, and offensively we did what we needed to do,” Bruner said. “Too many strikeouts, taking too many good pitches, but when it’s under 40 degrees, you’ll take it.”
North Newton (1-1, 0-1) got a good pitching performance from Aubrey Spencer, who struck out six and allowed an earned run on three hits.
“Wheeler is usually a big-hitting team, and we really contained their hits,” Suarez said. “Overall, we made a few errors here and there, kind of beat ourselves. Not terrible for this early in the year, but we’ve got a ways to go.”
Spencer singled in the second inning for the Spartans' lone hit. The Spartans faced a slower pitcher against Rensselaer in their season opener Monday.
“We had a hard time catching up to the speed of (Finch),” Suarez said. “You can’t take anything away from her. She’s probably top of the conference, so hopefully we’ll be ready for her next time.”