Imani Rochelle remembered the last time she faced Wake Forest senior starter Chelsea Cunningham.
“Last year, she struck me out like almost every time,” Rochelle said. “(This time), I was working so hard to get the ball down and through. The whole time my heart was in my throat and I had to keep telling myself to calm down, that it’s just another pitcher.”
Tuesday seemed to be no sweat for Heritage’s sophomore leadoff hitter. She finished 3-for-3 in the Huskies’ 11-1 mercy rule-shortened victory against the Cougars. Heritage (8-2, 4-0 Cap-8 Conference) produced 11 hits in five innings and held Wake Forest (5-4, 2-1) to a single hit.
In Rochelle’s first time facing Cunningham this season, the first baseman knocked off five foul balls before her first single; it took 10 pitches total.
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Heritage stressed Cunningham’s arm for 118 pitches before it was over.
“We told them to be patient because she liked to work up in the zone and, from the beginning of the game, he wasn’t giving her that pitch,” Heritage coach Mark Downing said. “In the past, we’ve chased them -- and looked really bad. We settled down and made (Cunningham) bring the ball down.”
The Huskies defense took care of anything freshman Georgeanna Barefoot didn’t.
The Heritage starter struck out four batters and assisted on four outs. She also forced two three-and-out innings in the second and third.
“I threw a lot of drop balls,” Barefoot said. “I was a little wild up top, so I had to keep them low ... to make them ground out.”
Wake Forest senior Shawn Ayers buried a double to left-center in the bottom of the fifth for the Cougars’ lone hit. A Sarah Vernatter sacrifice moved Ayers to third, where she remained as Barefoot induced a cleanly-fielded ground ball to end the meeting.
Wake Forest has owned the Cap-8 the last couple of years, and Heritage’s win made a statement. The two clubs shared the conference crown last season.
“It’s huge,” Downing said. “They were conference champions. We were co-champions with them last year. We finally climbed to the top, and we’re not looking back.”
Wake Forest got on the board first when junior Shawn Walker scored on a passed ball. Heritage tied it when a Hayley Lambertsen RBI double scored sophomore Grace Valchar. Tied at 1 entering the top of the third, Heritage made the most of loaded bases and nearly batted around. The Huskies belted three hits and scored three runs to take over the contest. They scored all their runs with no outs.
Three to know
Imani Rochelle, Heritage: She led at the plate with a 3-for-3 outing. The sophomore also accounted for an unassisted out in the fourth.
Georgeanna Barefoot, Heritage: She didn’t play like a freshman in her first Wake Forest rivalry game. In the second inning, it took her only nine pitches to retire the side and get the Huskies back on for their big burst in the third. She was 2-for-4, knocking in three runs, including a two-run single in the fifth.
Shawn Ayers, Wake Forest: Hitting first in the bottom of the fifth, it appeared Ayers knew the Cougars needed something – anything. On a 2-1 count, she sent a leadoff double to left-center in efforts to spark the hosts.
By the numbers
7: Heritage base runners to advance on passed balls
8: Heritage total RBIs
16: Wake Forest at-bats
3: Wake Forest base runners. Shawn Walker was hit by a pitch, Cunningham moved to first on an error and then there was the Ayers hit.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan