WHITING | Nickole Finch's first four innings couldn't have gone much better Thursday. It was easy to see Finch was locked in, ready for a dominant performance.
The senior pitcher struck out 12 of her first 13 batters faced, ending up with a 16-strikeout performance, as the Times No. 8 Bearcats cruised to a 9-0 win over Greater South Shore Conference foe Whiting.
The only thing Finch was disappointed in was her five walks. However, she was able to get out of any jam the No. 10 Oilers (2-1, 1-1) put her in.
"That was too many (walks)," she said. "Luckily, none of them scored. That was the difference-maker. The strikeouts helped, and our hitting has been coming alive this year."
At the plate, Finch started the game 0-for-3. Nursing a 3-0 lead in the top of the seventh inning, Finch blasted a hanging rise-ball from Mollie Lovasko to left field for a three-run home run. Her homer was part of a six-run seventh that put the game away. The Bearcats (4-0, 2-0) sent 10 batters to the plate in that frame before Lovasko was able to get Hanna Houghtaling to ground out and end the damage.
Wheeler's nine runs were an offensive showcase compared to the last time the Bearcats played at Whiting -- a 1-0 shutout last season. That result was something Finch said she had in the back of her mind coming into the game.
"This is a team we don't typically play well here," Wheeler coach Marc Bruner said. "Last year (Lovasko) beat us last year here. Mollie has had good success against us. We feel fortunate to come out and take good swings against a really good pitcher. I thought up and down the order, we took some pretty good swings."
Julia Taylor and Angelise Vukin both reached base in all four plate appearances, while an RBI triple from Karessa Sweeney highlighted a two-run fourth for the Bearcats.
Finch had a no-hitter through five innings before Lovasko blooped a single into right field to lead off the sixth. Sydney Neyhart collected Whiting's other hit.