The morning of the deciding game in the SCISA 3A state championship series between Cardinal Newman and Wilson Hall, Lady Barons pitcher Andi Grae Wingate went on something of a field trip.
She went to the home of former WH pitcher Drake Ives, the pitcher on Wilson Hall's 2018 state championship team that beat Cardinal Newman. Together, they looked at film of the first two games of the series and what had and had not worked against the Lady Cardinal batters.
"She helped me with how to get through situations, talked me through batters," Wingate said. "Knowing the Cardinal Newman batters are strong throughout the lineup, it helped to know their weaknesses. I went into the game knowing the batters and knowing what I need to do."
Wingate parlayed that information to a game in which she limited CN's high-powered offense to just four runs in what would end up a 14-4, 6-inning victory on Thursday at Camden High School.
Because of her efforts in both the circle and at the plate, Wingate was selected as the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.
"It means a lot to win this award, to know the community is behind me as well as my team," Wingate said. "To have the opportunity to make state and win it is tremendous. To have the whole team behind me, pulling for me, and to have that defense behind me means so much."
Cardinal Newman, which won the state title in 2019 over Wilson Hall, had scored eight runs in each of the first two games of the series. The Lady Barons were able to squeeze out a 10-8 win in the opener before falling 8-4 in the second game.
Wingate was far from overpowering in Game 3. She struck out just one batter, but she did a good job of scattering 10 hits, three walks and a hit batter.
WH head coach Teresa Alexander said studying the opposition was something Ives did when she pitched, and she instilled that in Wingate as well.
"Drake took a lot of pride in game film study," Alexander said. "They were able to sit down and look at it together, at what would work most effectively against the other hitters. I thought Andi Grae followed the scouting report very well. She was able to keep the balls where they were supposed to be."
Alexander believes Wingate was ready for the moment at hand.
"Her best pitch is the changeup, and she knows how to keep hitters off balance," Alexander said. "I thought she felt very confident when she went out there. She knew it was her moment, like when big players make big plays. It wasn't necessarily one play, but she could have an affect on every at-bat, and she had the mental toughness to be in that position."
Wingate said she felt in control most of the way. The only time she felt it getting away from her was in the top of the sixth inning. A baserunning mistake by Cardinal Newman, however, helped her regain control.
The Lady Cardinals' Jasmine Hogan, who bats leadoff, hit what appeared to be a 2-run home run that would have cut the lead to 7-5. However, Maria Leonelli, who had singled to left to open the inning, held up at first to see if the ball would be caught. Hogan, running with her head down, passed Leonelli after Hogan rounded first. Hogan finally realized her mistake as both runners neared third and tried to get behind Leonelli, but at that point it was too late. After both runners crossed home plate it was determined that Leonelli's run counted but Hogan was out, credited with an RBI single that left the score at 7-4.
"At that point, there would have been no outs and the score would have been 7-5," said Wingate, who was about to have to face the meat of the order. "That would have really given them momentum. Instead, they just got one run and we got an out. That really slowed them down."
Wilson Hall put the game away with a 7-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth to win by the 10-run mercy rule.
Wingate had a good offensive series as well, going 4-for-11 in the three games. She hit a home run, scored three times and drove in three runs.
Wingate, who participated in five sports at Wilson Hall in her senior season, said it means a lot to go out as state champion.
"It's just so cool," she said. I've been playing softball since I was little, and the ultimate dream was to get there to the varsity team, and win a state championship. It is so cool, so amazing."
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