The signs were there on Saturday. It was only a matter of time until the Bluffton softball team got the most out of its potent offense.
They did just that on Monday night, routing Wando 14-4 in 5 innings to advance to the Lower State championship.
Observers of the Bobcats' previous playoff outings would be forgiven for thinking they were watching a team of destiny. In those contests, Bluffton scraped together just enough in the way of offense to take advantage of some late breaks and tough out some wins.
But Monday night proved this is no team of destiny, just a very good, very talented one.
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"Very satisfying with the way the kids played tonight," coach Bill Ball said. "They played with a lot of excitement, enthusiasm."
On Saturday at Stratford, Bluffton flashed the kind of power and consistency that they hadn't found in the first phase of the postseason. Against Wando, Ball's team could do no wrong at the plate, relentlessly pounding out runs.
The attack started at the top, with leadoff hitter Morganne Parker slapping four singles to set the table. She was so on her game that the one out was a frozen rope to center field.
"I could feel the energy before the game," Parker said. "We were really into it. We were really aggressive. I knew we were going to hit the ball well tonight, I just didn't know it was going to be that well."
The Bobcats jumped all over Wando pitcher Alyssa Heinrich, pushing across four runs before the seats were warm. The Warriors added a run in the second, but that's as close as it would get. Four more runs each in the second and fourth innings, and two in the fifth put the Bobcats out of sight and in the driver's seat for Saturday.
"We needed it," Parker said. "This was an important game. Now someone has to come beat us twice."
If Monday's performance is anything to go by, that will be a very tough task. With the loss, Wando drops back into the loser's bracket, where the Warriors will face Summerville, a 4-1 winner over Stratford.
Bluffton will face the winner of that game on Friday, needing just one win to advance to the state championship series.
Pitcher Courtney Smith, who has carried the load in the circle all through the playoffs, struggled at times with her command and the glare of a setting sun, but managed to work her way through tight spots.
Smith's bat was, for once, even better than her arm. The senior is 7 for her last 8 after a 3 for 4 night at the plate. Smith survived one scary incident, when a comebacker crashed into her glove hand. After a few minutes consultation, Smith stayed in the game, throwing all five innings.
Ball said it was hard to fault Smith for any control issues, given the sun. With Smith's consistent performances and with the bats back on track, Bluffton's wild ride just may continue.
"They really want to win this thing," Ball said.
Bluffton 14, Wando 4, 5 innings
WAN 010 03x x -- 4 4 5
BLF 440 43x x -- 14 16 2
WP -- Courtney Smith 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 8 K
LP -- Alyssa Heinrich 5.0 IP, 10 ER, 2 K
Top Hitters: Bluffton -- Morganne Parker, 4-5, 2 R; Courtney Smith, 3-4, 3 R. Wando -- Virginia Moore, 2-3, 2B, R