VIENNA - Sherman Coach Jim Henderson put it best after a win over Wheeling Central on Wednesday morning.
"We are here for a reason and we just have to keep doing the things that make us a good softball team," he said. "We're ready for this and we can't wait to get back out there."
Sherman's squad made their coach look like Nostradamus as this is exactly what they did in a 7-0 dismantling on Wednesday of a very good Clay-Battelle team that was making their first appearance in the state tournament.
For Sherman, they have never won a state championship in any team sport at any level.
Jackson Memorial Park experienced a pitching duel for the first five frames as Sherman's Autumn Thompson locked horns with Caitlyn Kassay to give lovers of the art of pitching plenty of entertainment for their price of admission.
"In 2017 we had to play two games to get into the championship game and right now we are in the drivers seat so to speak," Henderson said. "Someone would have to beat us twice and we have to show up tomorrow because either of these teams can beat us at any time. When you get here you see that everyone around you is very good or they wouldn't be here."
Thompson won the shootout, surrendering only three hits and unofficially fanning nine Cee Bee batters.
"She was the one who set the tone and energy for the game and she did that at the plate, as well," Henderson said. "All year long we went as she did. That is just a fact. She is important to our team and that goes without saying."
The Lady Tide finished third in the state in Class A in 2018 and lost a championship game to Wheeling Central in 2017 so the squad is hungry and they want their place at the table to eat.
The scoring kicked off with Katlyn Jenkins mashing a sharp double to plate Autumn Thompson in the first frame, after she reached base on a double that was just a foot-and-a-half from leaving the ballpark versus Sydney Wilson who started the game and went two innings.
Chelsey Thompson scored in the second inning after Amber Maloskey pushed her home with a daisy cutter of her own.
It was then that the pitching duel began when Kassay entered the game and quietly fanned eight Lady Tide hitters in a row. Sherman eventually got to her and chipped away until it was too late for the Cee Bees to get back into the game against a pitcher with the pedigree of Thompson.
"She (Kassay) came in and did what she needed to do and we were chasing those high fastballs," he said. "She was pitching smart and we kept going for it."
Haylee Clendenin plated Thompson again with a textbook sacrifice bunt and an error by the Cee Bees making the score 4-0. Then, Clendenin scored on a wild pitch and Sherman was shutting the door.
Sydnee Ferrell notched an RBI hit and freshman Jada Samuel got a state tournament knock to help her remember the experience for future reference.
Autumn Thompson set the tone with the bat as well going 3-for-3 at the plate, with a walk and three runs scored from her perch at the top of the lineup.
Henderson spoke about the Boone County-based community he and the team call home.
"Sherman people always travel well and we can feel that they are there," he said. "I was on a state runner-up football team at Sherman in 1975 and it was a big deal and everyone came alive for the runner-up baseball team in 1990 and when we did that in 2017. We want to give this to all of the Sherman folks who would absolutely love to bring this back home. That is what I think about."
Sherman was set to play Thursday's winner between Wheeling Central and Clay-Battelle and win one of two games to claim the title.
SHERMAN 8, WHEELING CENTRAL 1: Sherman High and Wheeling Central kicked off Class A play in Vienna for the state softball tournament on Wednesday morning as the Lady Tide disposed of the reigning state champs, 8-1.The game, originally scheduled for 9:45 was moved up to 9 a.m. as only two fields were playable due to excessive rainfall.
Sherman coach Jim Henderson said that while it was a good feeling beating the Maroon Knights, a foe in tournaments of past, it wasn't his team's primary focus.
"I'm sure it takes some pressure off of the girls but for me, it really doesn't matter," he said. "THat has been a lot of weight on their back over the last two years. Our girls put themselves in good shape to continue on in the tournament."
Sherman got the scoring started in the first inning when after a scorching double from Autumn Thompson, Haylee Clendenin blasted a home run to left-center to make the score 2-0.
Cloey Toney doubled home a run in the second inning and Sherman led 3-0.
The Lady Knights came back an inning later when Kaitlyn Ferns hit a long home run to center field off of Thompson, making the contest a closer affair.
The Lady Tide broke loose at the plate in the fourth, scoring four runs in the frame. Katlyn Jenkins notched a sacrifice fly and an RBI. The inning was highlighted by a two-run homer from Hailea Skeens and another dramatic solo long-ball from Toney to right field and Sherman led, 7-1.
Henderson praised Sherman's team defense. The squad was crisp and aggressive in the field with Jenkins making a pair of heads up plays at first base and Amber Maloskey making a diving grab similar to the one she made last year in the same tourney. Wheeling Central made multiple errors on this morning.
"We played tough defense and didn't make an error," he said. "We had moments where it was really tough but we had to go and get the ball."
The Lady Tide tacked on a run in the sixth thanks to an RBI single from Chelsea Thompson. Autumn Thompson notched 11 strikeouts and gave up two hits for the Lady Tide.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.