LAKE STATION | Nickole Finch doesn't need a reminder of what transpired during last season's softball sectional.
The Wheeler junior and her teammates were victims of looking past a team in the 2012 postseason, and that led to Lake Station defeating the Bearcats 2-0 in a semifinal of the Bishop Noll Sectional.
Wheeler will face the host Eagles again Wednesday, as the Bearcats routed River Forest 15-0 in five innings in the opener of the Class 2A Lake Station Sectional.
“I'm looking forward to it,” Finch said. “I'm expecting us to come out a little more ready this year. Last year, we thought we had the sectional in the bag when we had all those seniors. This year, we've got something to fight for. We're a young team, and we get to earn it.”
Against the Ingots, it was one big inning that allowed Wheeler (13-7) to coast to the win.
Amber McGinley started the scoring with a three-run double in the third inning. Later in the marathon frame, Kayla Aytes lifted a two-run home run to left field in what became a 12-run inning for the Bearcats.
“We're a team that's struggled offensively, but we've gotten production from four or five kids consistently,” Wheeler coach Marc Bruner said. “Amber's been big for us this year.”
Finch pitched all five innings, giving up just three hits with eight strikeouts, and added a two-run home run in the fourth inning. In the top of the first inning, River Forest leadoff hitter Ashley Ogren drilled a single right above Finch's head, and Finch went on to strike out two of the next three batters to end the potential early threat.
“Nickole is awesome,” Bruner said. “We're in every game she pitches. She can come with the bat, and she's ready to go.”
The young Ingots (5-24) have had trouble with big innings all season long.
“We try to get in the mind frame of avoiding that inning,” Ingots coach Austin Robinson said. “We're a young team with only one senior that contributed. Everyone else should be back for a couple years since we have a lot of freshmen.”