SOUTH WILMINGTON — Down 3-0 with the bases loaded and with only one out in the top of the first inning is a suboptimal way for a pitcher to enter.
After facing that predicament, Gardner-South Wilmington right-hander Emily Foley made winning seem easy Tuesday afternoon. She left them loaded after switching places, from shortstop, with starter Abby Horrie in the top of the first, and followed that by holding Illinois Lutheran scoreless over the final six innings.
Foley and her teammates needed little time to get the runs back. They scored six times by the time they made their first out and rolled to an 11-3 victory in semifinal action at their own Class 1A softball regional.
"It didn't change the way I pitch," Foley said of the situation in which she entered. "I knew I have a good catcher (Miranda Residori) behind the plate and a great defense behind me. I wanted to rely on them. ... That's why we have a great team. I've been in a situation where I've needed other girls to pick me up. We have each other's backs."
GSW coach Jon Posing gave Horrie the start against an Illinois Lutheran team the Lady Panthers beat 14-2 and 17-2 during River Valley Conference play this season. The Chargers drew three walks and got a two-run double from Amanda Buzan against Horrie, and the GSW defense made three errors behind her.
Foley came on and coaxed a popout and a strikeout to end the inning. She then held the Chargers hitless until there were two outs in the top of the sixth inning. She struck out seven and improved to 9-3 on the season.
"Well, Abby has been struggling lately," Posing said. "I was fully aware of what might happen, but I thought today was a chance for her to build some confidence. That didn't happen. But we were ready to turn to Emily and confident in her. ... I told (Horrie) that — that the defense didn't give her any help."
GSW started the bottom of the first with a Foley walk and a Lexi Posing bunt single before Horrie reached on the first of four Illinois Lutheran errors in the inning. A Becca Bernardy single drove in two runs, with a third scoring on an error on the play, and Kaitlyn Dennett and Emily Hopwood added an RBI each on a triple and a groundout.
The Lady Panthers added single runs in the second and fourth innings before getting two in the fifth. Bernardy capped the scoring with a sixth-inning, solo inside-the-park home run.
Another RVC opponent awaits the Lady Panthers in Saturday's championship game. They will play the winner of a Wednesday semifinal between Grant Park and St. Anne.