WAKE FOREST — Wake Forest-Rolesville coach Doug Kinsman knew his players were nervous entering Friday’s state semifinal game against West Johnston. He could tell during warmups.
None of these players had ever been this deep in the playoffs. In fact, they were just the third team in program history to make it to the N.C. High School Association 4A East regional finals.
The Cougars had an uncharacteristic defensive error in the first inning, but rolled easily from then on. Wake Forest-Rolesville scored five runs in the first inning, batting around the order and prompting West Johnston coach Warren Singleton to pull his starting pitcher.
The Cougars shook their nerves to take a convincing 7-0 win in game one of the regional finals.
The regional round is a best-of-three series.
Since game one was rained out Thursday and moved to Friday, the teams could play a doubleheader on Saturday.
Game two is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at West Johnston. Game three, if necessary, will be played at 7 p.m. in Wake Forest.
“The big thing about tonight and getting this first one is now the monkey’s on their back,” Kinsman said. “Any time you’ve got to turn around and beat somebody twice at this level, it’s a hard thing to do. ... but we can’t give them any life, because if you give a team that’s been down a little bit of life and then they come back, then it’s usually hard for the team that already started out with the momentum to get that back.”
After struggling at the plate in its fourth-round game against Middle Creek, Wake Forest-Rolesville (19-4) came alive early, scoring four runs on its first six at-bats, and forcing Singleton to put freshman Megan Mills on the mound for senior starter Christina Gower.
Mills, a freshman, has been with West Johnston (16-5) for the playoffs after playing the regular season on junior varsity.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Mills gave up a single RBI on her first pitch and two more runs in the third inning, but downed Wake Forest-Rolesville in three batters in all other innings.
Freshman catcher Jessie Barbour, who drove in the first run of the game and picked off two runners from behind the plate, said the Cougars still have nervous energy headed into Saturday. Those nerves, she said, can be a good thing for the team.