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Slapping when punching needed

BELVIDERE – There’s a reason why the term knockout slap has never caught on.

In a fight, slapping generally isn’t going to get it done. You’d better be ready to punch.

The Sterling Golden Warriors proved the same was true in softball Wednesday during its 9-1 win over Kaneland in the Class 3A Belvidere North Sectional semifinal.

“The things we read about Kaneland coming into the game told us that they were not a team that was going to hit a lot of home runs,” Sterling coach Rick Henderson said. “We decided to have the outfielders play in. After the first inning, we could tell they wanted to slap everything and that plays right into our defensive strength.”

The Knights scored their lone run of the game in the first inning on a pair of slap hits. After that, the battery of pitcher Stephanie Kester and catcher Ashli King settled into a grove.

The Knights had only three hits after the first. Two of them were infield singles.

For the most part, Kaneland’s innings on offense were filled with groundball outs and harmless pop flies.

“I was just trying to hit my spots,” Kester said. “I didn’t focus too much on them slapping at the ball, but I knew that if they made contact that the defense would make the play.”

“We were trying to mix up the speed and location a little bit, but basically give them something they wanted to swing at,” King said. “Not a meatball, but something they’d drive into the ground or pop up.”

While the Knights continued to slap, the Warriors were throwing haymakers.

Sterling (31-6) clobbered 11 hits, including four doubles. The Warrior offense put up nine runs, running their total in three postseason games to 29.

“We’ve been working on hitting a lot,” centerfielder Mackenzie Staples said. “We’ve bumped the speed up on the machine, so we’re ready for the faster pitching.”

The Warriors will play the winner of today’s game between Marengo and Burlington Central at 11 a.m. w Saturday.

The one thing that is clear is that whichever team they play better be prepared to come out swinging.

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