ST. MARTIN - After a rough first two innings, Harrison Central pitcher Madison Burge settled in, leading the Rebels to a 5-1 win over St. Martin in the South State finals.
The series now moves to Harrison Central in a potential doubleheader at 5 p.m. Saturday.
"The more you play another team, the harder it is to beat them," Red Rebelettes coach Jimmy Parker said. "We have to come focused from the first inning. "We are going to have to hit the ball again. Our pitching and defense have held up all year. If we can hit the ball tomorrow, we will be in good shape."
Burge feels winning the first game should give the Red Rebelettes a confidence boost going into the second game.
"It gives us something to look back on tomorrow," Burge said. "We need to come out and stay focused. If we can stay focused, the momentum from tonight will help us win."
St. Martin (17-8) drew first blood when Emily Stansbury singled in Deona Morgan, who led off with a double. Stansbury went to second on the throw home behind Katelyn Gruich, who was intentionally walked, at third with one out. Burge got out of the inning, though, getting a popup to short and a grounder back to the circle.
In the second, Ashlie Warrick and Cassie Toncrey recorded back-to-back singles. Burge, though got the second out on a strike out before Toncrey strayed too far off second and was thrown out by Rebels catcher Kayla Cade.
"That was a momentum changer," Burge said. "That gave us a lot of confidence. After that, we started playing our game."
From then on, it was all Burge as the senior pitcher allowed only three more baserunners, including two more intentional walks to Gruich, who was intentionally put on base on all three of her trips to the plate.
Burge finished with a four hitter, with no hits after the second inning, striking out eight, walking three, and hitting a batter.
"We are going to have to hit the ball, and not just for the first one or two innings," St. Martin head coach Donna Swilley said. "We are going to have to make adjustments at the plate and hit the ball for seven innings. We hit the ball pretty well through the first three innings, but we didn't adjust to Burge. She adjusted to us."
Down 1-0, Harrison Central finally reached St. Martin starter Rebecca Anderson in the fourth inning with three runs.
Anderson started the inning by hitting Burge with a pitch. Kayla Smith came in to run for Burge. Amari Ramsey sacrificed to the mound. Cade rounded second a little too far for the Yellow Jackets' second baseman, who was covering first, and drew a throw to second. The throw, however, was wide left into left center, allowing Cade to tie the game.
Zharia Richardson doubled down the third baseline. Ashley Arnold followed with an RBI single, with Jhericka Strickland following with a single to put runners on second and third. One out later, Daijha Richardson singled in Arnold, but Strickland was cut down at home for the third out after St. Martin catcher Stansbury made a great play on a bad throw from center, picking up the rebound off the backstop and beating Strickland back to the plate.
The Rebels added two insurance runs in the sixth inning. With two outs, Strickland walked. Kayla Cade singled to left and Daijha Richardson was hit by a pitch. Simone McKinney singled up the middle to drive in Strickland and Ashley Terwilliger, who was running for Cade.
McKinney led the way for the Rebels offensively with a pair of singles and two RBIs. The bottom third of Harrison Central's order each reached twice, with Strickland getting a hit and walking and Kayla Cade and Daijha Richardson each reaching after being hit and recording a single.