WHARTON - When Sherman High and Van High meet in cross-county rivalry games, one thing is for certain - the student-athletes are going to play hard for the Class A Boone County-based schools.
The softball squads met for the second time this season, with the Lady Tide winning their season-opening encounter at Seth, 10-0. This would be a different battle.
Sherman sent eight hitters to the plate in the first frame and managed to only push home two of those runners and edged out Van, 4-3.
The teams sent their aces to the bump on this evening with 2018 All-County Player of the Year and All-State selection Autumn Thompson and All-County Standout Monica Bias representing the Lady Bulldogs.
"I give Van well-deserved credit," said Sherman coach Jim Henderson. "(Coaches) Mike LaFauci and Stephanie LaFauci had an excellent game plan and their girls executed. We are lucky to leave with a win."
Karlie LaFauci scored two runs for the Lady Bulldogs and made multiple plays up the middle to help out her pitcher. Haylee Clendenin and Chelsea Thompson were the offensive stars on this evening for the Lady Tide. Clendenin mashed a home run while going 3-4 with a pair of hard-hit doubles and Thompson had a pair of RBIs. Uncharacteristically, Sherman made two errors in the game including a throwing error across the infield that allowed two Lady Bulldogs to score after consecutive hits in the sixth frame.
Van (11-8) and winners of seven in-a-row coming in, hadn't tasted defeat since a loss to Liberty (Raleigh) on May 25.
"I was pleased with our confidence at the plate," coach Mike LaFauci said. "When you face an All-State pitcher like Autumn, you have to be aggressive at the plate and put the ball in play. We've steadily come along offensively and I was happy with our effort."
The coach also spoke about the performance of his own hurler.
"It goes without saying that Monica Bias pitched a gem," he added. "We did have a plan going in and we executed to near perfection. Her ability to locate was key and our defense made plays that sometimes we can struggle with. Sherman is a state contender and to play them that closely was a confidence builder for our team."
Coach Henderson said that his squad fell to the temptation of swinging at balls out of the zone.
"We were hacking at balls that were high and getting under them and either popping up or hitting weak flyballs that were playable in the outfield," he said. "We weren't disciplined enough at the plate and it hurt us. They pitched around two of our big sticks in Thompson and (Katlyn) Jenkins."
Sherman (14-1) had 10 fly ball outs in the game, also uncharacteristic of the Lady Tide this season.
Casey Belcher and Kensley White also had hits for Van. Bias gave up four runs on six hits with six walks and four strikeouts.
Beyond Clendenin's stellar plate performance, Jenkins went 1-1 with three walks, Chelsea Thompson went 1-4 with a pair of RBIs and Amber Maloskey went 1-4.
Autumn Thompson gave up three unearned runs on three hits with nine strikeouts.
Sherman will play at a tournament in Myrtle Beach this week and Van plays at Lincoln County on April 17.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or follow him @philipdperry on Twitter.