HOBART | For five of the first six innings, host Hobart stood toe-to-toe with Wheeler and one of the best pitchers in Northwest Indiana.
But it was that one inning – the first – in which the Times No. 7 Bearcats put together a little two-out rally, and it was plenty of breathing room for Nickole Finch in a 3-0 victory.
Times No. 10 Hobart actually did a better job of producing than Wheeler (6-1), putting at least one runner on base each of the first six innings while the Bearcats only had one girl reach base from the second through sixth innings.
“We couldn’t put base runners together and they did in the first,” said Hobart assistant coach Bob Lucas.
He was filling in for his wife, Katrina, who had the couple’s second child, a baby boy, almost nine hours before game time Thursday.
Those consecutive base runners came in the first after Hobart pitcher Maddy Adams struck out the first two hitters. Finch scalded a single to left field, Angelise Vukin walked and Karessa Sweeney blasted a double down the left field line to score both.
“I felt like that pitch was a little off,” Sweeney said of the hit. “When (Finch) is pitching, we have a lot of confidence that if we score early, we have a good chance (to win).”
Finch struck out 13, but was a little wild with three walks and a hit-batsman. But it was as some pitchers call "effectively wild", since she was able to work out of two scoring threats for Hobart (5-5).
“She was extra good when she needed to be,” Wheeler coach Marc Bruner said. “(Hobart) is a 4A school from a good conference. Maddy was tough early in the game against us.”
Adams actually had six strikeouts in the first two innings, and struck out more hitters than Finch through three. Adams finished with 10 strikeouts and two walks.
“That walk (in the first inning) hurt us,” Hobart’s other assistant, Tricia Fisk, said. “Maddy has done pretty well. She had a slow start to the season, but she’s getting better every game.”
As for when head coach Katrina Lucas will be coming back, her husband said it’s going to be sooner than most would think.
“Baby is healthy and mom is healthy,” Bob Lucas said. “She might be back by next Wednesday.”