PEARL CITY – Amboy right fielder Delaney Wilhelm spent all of the first, and most of the second inning watching Hiawatha pitcher Alexis Ross.
Ross was a fast worker on the mound, and liked to throw the ball once her catcher tossed it back. She had a quick delivery to the plate, but didn't have much velocity on her pitches. And that was the issue.
After facing hard-throwing pitchers in their conference throughout the season, the Clippers were tasked with figuring out the soft-tossing righty, which they eventually did in a 13-0 win over Hiawatha in the 1A Pearl City Sectional semifinal.
The Amboy batters were patient, and waited back on the pitches, but the timing wasn't there. Each of the first four outs were on balls that didn't leave the infield, as they were caught lunging. The other four hitters walked before Wilhelm, hitting from the No. 9 spot, solved Ross.
"She was a slower pitcher," Wilhelm said. "It took us a couple innings to make the adjustments we need to make."
Wilhelm took an inside fastball to the left-center field fence for a two-run double for the game's first runs, which proved to be the eventual game-winning hit.
The Clippers poured on more just two innings later and put the game out of reach in their half of the fourth, scoring 11 runs en route to the five-inning win.
The Clippers sent 15 batters to the plate in the fourth, and the first nine batters reached base safely. The offensive attack chased Ross out of the game, before Amboy went to work on the relief pitcher, Presley Fisher.
Amboy rapped 11 hits as Ross allowed seven runs in her three innings of work, while Fisher allowed six runs (three earned) in the fourth.
The Clippers entered the game wanting to be aggressive on the basepaths, and were able to do so throughout, stealing 10 bases.
"That's what we want to do," said Wilhelm, who finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs. "You never know what can happen when you can get the other team throwing the ball around.
"When we have a lead, we try to be even more aggressive."
The secondary leads forced throws from Hawks catcher Haley Zuberbear, but the Hiawatha defense couldn't handle the extra pressure and made four errors in the game.
"We needed to make some adjustments in the first couple innings," Amboy coach Kelly Whitman said, "and we were able to do that, while not allowing a whole lot."
The lead eased the pressure off Amboy pitcher Karlee Doege, who went all five innings. She allowed one hit, and struck out seven. She didn't walk any batters, and carried a perfect game into the fourth inning, before losing it on the leadoff hitter in the fourth, who reached on an error.
"I felt really good out there," Doege said.
The Hawks had scored 27 runs in their previous two playoff games, but Doege doused their offensive fire.
She rarely threw anything straight, and frustrated the Hawks' batters. Of her seven strikeouts, four were swinging, and none were close.
Doege threw what she calls a screwball, which was on point throughout the game. The pitch looked tantalizing, like a dessert before dinner, on its way to the plate, before turning into vegetables and no dessert, and dancing out of the zone.
Her riseball was the perfect compliment, and acted as her wipeout pitch as hitters flailed wildly at it.
"I felt confident throwing both of them," she said. "The screw was really working. I felt confident especially when I know the team is playing good behind me."
With the win, Amboy will get a chance at the program's first sectional title, as they will play in the sectional final at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The Clippers will face the winner of today's game between Pearl City and Orangeville.
Star of the game
Delaney Wilhelm, Amboy, 3-for-3 2B, 3 RBI
Karlee Doege, Amboy, 5 IP, 7 K, 0 BB, 1 H.
Madeline Ely, Amboy, 3-for 4, 2B 3 RBI