Smyrna nips Lake Forest 3-1 to reach softball state semifinals

Smyrna’s Jessica Anderson pitches against Lake Forest at Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — A pair of first-inning runs for Smyrna High was all it would take for the Eagles to earn a trip to the state semifinals.

Senior starting pitcher Jessica Anderson’s 5.1 innings of four-hit ball and an all-around solid defensive effort led No. 2 Smyrna to a 3-1 victory over No. 10 Lake Forest in the DIAA softball state quarterfinals on Wednesday afternoon.

The Eagles (19-1) will turn right around and host No. 11 Wilmington Charter (13-7) today at 4 p.m. for the right to play in Saturday’s title game.

“I knew Lake had big hitters on their team, so I knew I had to work my spots and work my off-speed today,” said Anderson. “I knew I just had to relax and rely on my team mostly.”

After recording just four hits and three runs in the regular season matchup — a game in which the Eagles also won 3-1 — Smyrna coach Nicki Shirey knew runs would be tough to come by the second time around.

“We knew it was going to be a tight game. Our defense held solid, our pitching was great today, so I’m proud of every one of the girls,” Shirey said.

Lake Forest third baseman Brooke Glanden throws to first after making a diving catch for an out.

After seeing Lake Forest pitcher Katie Stahre in the regular season, Smyrna’s hitters made sure to make adjustments heading into Wednesday’s rematch.

“I expected Stahre to be tough,” Shirey said. “She really works her corners, I knew we had to adjust at the plate and go with whatever pitch she was throwing, and the girls really did that today.”

Although Stahre struck out three Eagles looking in the bottom of the first, damage was done as Lexi Moore and Kaelyn Press both scored off a Lake Forest throwing error. The runs provided Anderson an early two-run cushion in the pitcher’s circle.

“We faced her earlier in the year and we made a lot of adjustments throughout, so we knew she was going to stay low and out and we knew she was going to hit her spots well,” Smyrna junior outfielder Abigail Mace said about Stahre.

Mace provided a crucial insurance run with an RBI double off the left field fence in the fourth inning, scoring Madison Steele and putting Smyrna ahead 3-0.

“Well, we had a base-runner on and I knew we couldn’t do it without another run and that we needed some insurance for our defense,” said Mace.

Smyrna shortstop Alexis Moore throws to first base against Lake Forest.

Anderson hurled a scoreless five innings with six strikeouts before giving up her lone run in the top of the sixth inning. Senior third baseman Brooke Glanden put Lake on the scoreboard with a solo homerun.

After Glanden’s solo shot over the left field wall, Shirey brought in freshman Payton Dixon to take over in relief. Dixon surrendered just a pair of hits in the final 1.2 innings to complete the victory.

“They’re a great duo,” Shirey said about her two pitchers. “They are very supportive of each other. Jess has been holding it down but whenever we need Payton she’s come through for us, so they’ve worked well together.”

Anderson had no doubts about Dixon’s ability to finish what she had started.

“She’s also a good pitcher and I know we work great together as a team,” Anderson said of the freshman.

Glanden, Katie Stahre, Grace Aguilar and Kayla Thompson each recorded a hit for Lake, while Lexi Stahre finished 2-for-3 at the plate.

Moore, Press, Mace, Sara Miller, Madison Drummond and Julia Thuer recorded Smyrna’s six hits.

Stahre surrendered six hits and three runs (two earned) while striking out four batters in her 6.0 innings pitched.

Anderson hopes her success in the pitcher’s circle can carry over to today’s semifinal round.

“I know we just have to keep our bats going — and I know our defense is really good right now — so I just need to work on my spinning and keep on hitting my spots,” she said.

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