LEAVITTSBURG - Though the LaBrae softball team fell short of one goal this season, another was achieved on Friday.
Its next step on the ladder could be history-making.
"I wanted to win the (All-American Conference National) title," Vikings coach Demetra Noble said after her team's 10-0, five inning win over Pymatuning Valley in a Division III sectional final. "But we came in second (behind Jefferson), so achieving this is big. Now, I want to win districts. We've talked about it all year."
Tribune Chronicle / Matthew Peaslee
LaBrae pitcher Emily Dugan delivers a pitch against Pymatuning Valley on Friday. Dugan struck out 12 batters in the victory.
LaBrae hasn't advanced to the district tournament since the school's current boys basketball coach, Chad Kiser, led the softball program. In 2005, he guided the Vikings to the state semifinals where they fell to eventual champions Sycamore Mohawk, 8-6.
LaBrae (15-7) collected nine hits off of Pymatuning Valley pitcher Megan Stech.
"A dominating win like this gives us a lot of confidence for next week," said designated hitter Jessica Buck. "We made it this far and it feels amazing. It's always been the goal and now we're here."
The Vikings face Gilmour Academy in Jefferson on Thursday. The Lancers beat No. 2 seed Wickliffe, 2-0.
Buck collected two hits with three RBIs. She drove in the game's first two runs and also scored in the bottom half of the first inning. Danielle Miracle and Lauren Rutherford also added two hits.
"You never know what the girls are going to bring," Noble said. "Today they were ready to compete. They totally brought it."
At the plate and on the mound.
Sophomore pitcher Emily Dugan had a career-high 12 strikeouts, bringing her total to 116 on the year. She has 12 wins in her first role as the full-time pitcher.
"Emily was on fire," catcher Laura Hall said. "I was so proud of her. She's just a sophomore and for her to be able to come out and pitch in one of these big games, and get a run rule no less, it shows a lot on her part about how mentally strong she is as an athlete. She's a very sound pitcher."
Hall has called her own games for the past two years, but Noble interjected and ordered the pitches in this one. The second-year head coach scouted the Lakers' 11-10 win over Brookfield in Thursday's sectional final.
"She threw a lot of screwballs," Noble said. "Not many fastballs at all, but we worked them in. We went to the outside to throw them off. She was a little high out of the zone but she adjusted.
"Emily was aware of the gameplan and executed it perfectly."
Hall had a favorable opinion on the move, saying that "Coach likes to change it up and it really worked in our favor, to be honest."
Hall, Miracle and Rutherford each scored two runs.