LITTLE RIVER -- Combine equal parts domination, supreme confidence and a mean glove slap, and you'll get the type of performance North Myrtle Beach's Taylor Hansis put on Friday night.
The Chiefs junior dominated No. 6-seeded Hilton Head Island High School (7-13), striking out nine en route to a complete-game shutout and a 7-0 win in the No. 1-seeded North Myrtle Beach softball team's Class 3-A state playoff opener.
"I have a lot of faith in my team. I know whether they hit the ball or not they're going to back me up," she said. "I've just been pitching a long time and I just feel comfortable with all the people around me."
Hansis said the demonstrative slap of her glove on her right thigh before every pitch is something she's always done "for timing." That timing was certainly on, as the right-hander (16-3) didn't allow a baserunner until the fourth inning when she walked Hunter Walston, and didn't allow a hit until Whitney Halley recorded a single in the sixth inning. That included a stretch in which Hansis struck out seven Hilton Head High batters in a row.
"I think I was just moving it around the plate a lot, kind of keeping them off balance and playing toward their weaknesses that we saw," she said, noting that pitching in the playoffs is a bit different, because it is generally against unscouted opponents. "It's kind of difficult, you don't really know what to throw at first. But I think as we go through we kind of learn to see what pitches are working for me, and just kind of play it by ear."
The playoff win was the first for the Chiefs (21-3) since 2005, and it was their first appearance since 2012. The win was exactly what Graves said he was looking for, and the offensive output -- highlighted by Julia Cole's 3-for-4, three-RBI performance -- against a difficult pitcher is something he's very happy about.
Halley pitched and struck out six, with only three of the runs earned.