As veterans of the postseason, junior pitcher Maci Ingram and the rest of the Nashville Hornettes know how to turn up their level of play when the playoffs start.
Ingram threw a one-hitter and the Hornettes banged out 11 hits, including a three-run homer by Kiley Pelker, in beating the Gibault Hawks 12-1 Saturday in the championship game of the Class 2A Red Bud Softball Regional.
It was the fourth straight regional title for the Hornettes, who won the Class 2A state championship two years ago and placed third in Class 2A last year.
"I think we definitely do better in the postseason," Ingram said. "The pressure is on, and we all really picked it up. We know it's time."
The Hornettes (34-2), ranked No. 1 in the state, advance to the Johnston City Sectional where they'll meet Harrisburg Bulldogs (27-6) at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Harrisburg edged Carmi-White County 5-4 Saturday in the championship game of the Harrisburg Regional.
Ingram struck out 13 batters in the five-inning game.
"Her ball was moving very well and she was hitting her spots," Nashville coach Dempsey Witte said of Ingram. "I thought she threw extremely well today. That's a very good lineup with some very good hitters, and I thought she did an unbelievable job today."
Ingram fanned the first nine batters that she faced.
"The first time through the lineup, we just couldn't get anything done," Gibault coach David Gregson said. "Maci Ingram was wheeling today. She was really on."
Gibault catcher Lauren Prader broke up Ingram's perfect game by drawing a walk with a 19-pitch at-bat with two outs in the fourth inning.
Prader fouled off pitch after pitch before finally getting the walk.
"Oh my gosh, she wore me out, I'm telling you," Ingram said.
Paige Wriston followed with a double to left field, scoring Prader to break up the no-hitter and the shutout.
The Hawks closed out their season with a 15-15 record. They'll lose senior pitcher Noelle Davis and Prader to graduation, but the majority of their squad consists of freshmen and sophomores.
"You always feel bad for the seniors when you lose," Gregson said. "Those two have meant a lot for the program. They both have eight home runs this year, and they're leaders on and off the field. We'll miss them.
"We have a young nucleus and we do move down to (Class) 1A next year, so I think that is going to help the program. When you only have 12-13 girls in your program, you're a 1A program."
The Hornettes got all the runs that Ingram would need in the first inning .
Pelker walked, Hannah Yung singled and Briah Winchester hit a bloop single to right-center field to bring home Pelker.
Emily Thompson's sacrifice fly to right field scored Yung.
The Hornettes pushed across five runs in the third inning as the Hawks had trouble handling several bunts.
"I thought our aggressiveness on the bases was very important today," Witte said. "We were taking the extra base all the time. That's just kind of our style, making the other team play with some pressure on them."
Pelker led the third off a with a bloop single and Jordi Harre followed with a bunt single.
Yung bunted the runners to second and third, and Pelker scored on a squeeze bunt by Winchester.
Thompson singled to right field to drive in a run, and two more runs scored on a throwing error to the plate.
Thompson scored on a wild pitch and Nellie Snead reached on a bunt.
Snead scored on a triple to left-center by Daley Buchanan.
The Hornettes tacked on two more runs in the fourth as Jordi Harre hit a bloop double, Yung reached on a bunt and Thompson came through with an infield single.
Pelker ended the game by way of the 10-run rule with a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.
After Buchanan walked and Deidra Holzhauer singled, Pelker sent a 1-0 offering over the left-field fence.
"Kiley has been a great player for us her whole career, and that had to fell pretty good hitting a walk-off in the regional," Witte said.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.