MANCHESTER — When Mike Hernandez saw Watkins Mill pitcher Tishauni White's off-speed approach during warm-ups before Thursday's Class 3A West Section 1 quarterfinal, the Manchester Valley coach hoped the bulk of his batting order was paying attention.
Particularly Kassidy Johnson and Stephanie Barksdale, two Mavericks hitters that Hernandez said tend to psyche themselves out when the opposing pitcher isn't pumping the strike zone with fastballs. When each of them delivered home runs over the fence by waiting for a pitch to hit, Hernandez felt vindicated.
"That kind of pitching is very tough to hit," Hernandez said. "We like it the faster the better. … Seeing those two do that was a real plus."
Barksdale led off the second inning with a solo shot to left field, and Johnson added a three-run blast in the same frame, which propelled Man Valley to a 12-2 victory in six innings.
Barksdale said she talked to herself before stepping to the plate against White, and when White delivered her slower stuff Barksdale was ready.
"I said, 'You've got to wait, got to sit back,'" Barksdale said. "I've got to count to 10 in my head."
Added Johnson: "It's more like 30, but that's fine."
Taylor Knatz had three hits and Jacquelyn Gouge smacked a three-run double in the fourth inning. Johnson had two hits and reached base four times — her single in the first almost carried over the fence for a two-run home run, but the ball landed at the base of the fence and kept her from advancing.
"I think my first one, I didn't get all of it, so I knew when I got up to bat again I just stayed through the zone," Johnson said. "As long as I relied on myself and my swing, my technique, I'd be able to hit it over."
Man Valley (8-8) led 7-0 after two innings and never looked back, but Watkins Mill (3-14) hung in despite fielding only nine players. The Wolverines scored a run in the third on Jessica Cruz's RBI single, then another in the sixth after Jamie Carmichael tripled and Cruz drove her in with an infield hit.
Watkins Mill trailed 10-2, however, and Manchester Valley ended the game in its half of the inning.
Johnson reached on an error to lead off and later scored on another miscue, and the Mavs put the 10-run rule into effect after White plunked a batter with the bases loaded.
MV pitcher Megan Cappadora collected five strikeouts in four innings and earned the victory.
Hernandez got a chance to play several reserves, which he said he hopes will pay off as the season continues. Man Valley travels to Blake on Friday, and a win there could set up a third matchup against county rival Westminster.
The Mavericks lost to the Owls twice during the regular season, but Hernandez said he thinks this team has the right makeup to make a playoff run.