Nickole Finch’s one-hitter leads Bearcats over Noll
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent May 22, 2012 11:14PM
Wheeler's Nickole Finch pitches in the bottom of the sixth inning against Bishop Noll during sectional play at Bishop Noll Tuesday evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2012 10:10AM
HAMMOND — Wheeler coach Marc Bruner said since Nickole Finch hadn’t pitched for 10 days he was a little bit scared.
Except for a troublesome fourth inning in Tuesday’s Class 2A Bishop Noll Sectional matchup with the host Warriors, Bruner fretted needlessly.
The Bearcats’ sophomore left-hander was superb, tossing a one-hitter to lead Wheeler (19-10) to a 3-0 win over Noll (18-9). Wheeler advances to play Lake Station (16-9) in a semifinal game on Wednesday.
“I wasn’t expecting (a one-hitter) because they’re a good hitting team,” said Finch, of the Warriors. “I was expecting them to get more hits and make more plays.”
The lone hit off Finch was a fourth-inning single by Victoria Papach.
“She (Finch) pitched well,” Warriors coach Ralph Laramie said. “She had enough junk today that she kept us off-balance, and then she threw strikes when she needed to. We knew coming in she was a good pitcher, but when you don’t hit, you don’t hit. We told the girls before the game to be aggressive and under control, but I think they were too aggressive.”
Finch received all the offensive support she needed in the top of the first inning as Whitney Maas singled and was about to be sacrificed to second base by Mari Medina, when Noll pitcher Vanessa Hartzell (10 strikeouts) threw the ball past second base and it skipped into centerfield, going by Elena Palomo, to score Maas. A run-scoring single by Amber Anderson scored Medina to make it 2-0.
“It gave us a little bit of breathing room,” Bruner said. “It was nice to score first against them this time.”
Wheeler scored again in the sixth as Sarah Becker reached on a single. Alexandra Sanchez pinch-ran and stole second base, then attempted to steal third and scored when Noll catcher Monica Martin threw the ball into leftfield.
Finch finished with eight strikeouts and walked three. Her biggest strikeout ended the fourth inning after Noll used Papach’s single and two walks to load the bases.
“It was probably the win or loss (point) of the game, I think,” Finch said. “I wasn’t pitching my best. I was struggling and I think my team picked me up more than anything. The coaches were challenging me to get that strikeout. I knew for my team I had to get it, and I did.”
Finch cruised through the last three innings and beat Noll for the first time (1-3) in her career.