Taylor struck out four and allowed only three hits as West Union topped visiting Smithville 5-0 in Game 1 of the three-game series.
“I was nervous. I’m always nervous for playoff games,” Taylor said. “But I got a little bit of relief when we started hitting the ball and it helped me.”
Smithville, for its part, made several uncharacteristic miscues.
The Lady Eagles (16-8), who lost here against Smithville in the North finals last season, scored three runs in the fifth inning, two on wild pitches and another on Hannah McQaury’s double for a 5-0 lead.
West Union took a 1-0 lead in the third inning thanks to another pair of mental mistakes. Julianna Garner singled and alertly took second base as leftfielder Taylor Ann Boozer bobbled the ball. Garner stole third and with no one covering the bag, the ball went to the outfield and Garner scored.
Taylor “pitched a great game. She’s been in the zone,” West Union coach Lisa Bogue said. “They did make some uncommon mistakes but the girls capitalized on them.”
The lead went to 2-0 in the fourth. McQuary led the inning off with a walk, stole second, took third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch.
Smithville coach Jeremy Duke refused to blame the mistakes on the long layoff caused by the EF-5 tornado that destroyed the town last Wednesday but did say that not seeing a pitcher of Taylor’s caliber for more than two weeks hurt.
“We were flat from the beginning of the game,” Duke said. “Not having a competitive game for 16 days, that has a lot to do with it.”
Smithville beat Coldwater a combined 34-0 in a six-inning, two-game sweep Monday at Amory.
West Union had five hits, two of them from Garner. Smithville (19-7) had a chance to tie in the fourth. Roberts singled and stole second but Taylor (10-4) got a strikeout to end the inning.
Game 2 (3 if necessary) is scheduled for today at noon at Amory. Smithville’s field is too damaged to play on. Four Smithville players lost their homes in the tornado.
After the game, West Union players and baseball players had care packages prepared for Smithville’s teams, as well as gifts for the rival school. Tremont players also met Duke after the game to give the Lady Seminoles a donation.
Roberts (10-4) struck out five in the loss.