By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rachel Wingler struck out 10 and knocked in three runs as No. 1 seed Clear Lake advanced to the championship game of the NCS Division 5 tournament with a 14-4 victory against St. Vincent in Lakeport on Tuesday.
The final is set for Friday at 5 p.m. and the opponent will be the winner of Wednesday’s game between No. 2 St. Joseph Notre Dame and No. 3 St. Bernard Catholic.
Tuesday’s game was shortened when Clear Lake scored three in the sixth to increase its lead to 10 runs.
“It sure didn’t feel like a 10-run game,” Cardinals coach Gary Pickle said. “It was 6-4 going to our half of the fifth. The game was closer than the final score shows.”
Wingler gave up 12 hits, but got key outs when she needed them.
For instance, St. Vincent began the game by putting its first three batters on base. There was one run in and runners on second and third when Wingler responded by striking out the next three batters.
“My rise ball was working and I was able to keep the St. Vincent batters off balance by changing location,” the junior said.
Clear Lake took the lead for good with a four-run third and Wingler was in the middle of the uprising. She and Destinee Garcia each knocked in a pair of runs. Wingler’s hit was a double.
The Mustangs came back with three in the fifth before Clear Lake put five runs on the board in the bottom half of the inning. All the runs scored with two outs.
“That was the momentum changer,” Pickle said of the five-run inning. “St. Vincent had the momentum after making it 6-4.”
Wingler said this was one of the best games Clear Lake has played.
“I’m not surprised we’ve made it this far,” she said. “We mesh together well.”
The turning point in the Cardinals’ season came April 17 in a game against Cloverdale.
“We won 2-1 in 13 innings,” Wingler recalled. “After we won that, our confidence level grew. We knew we could do something like this.”
Clear Lake has won 10 of 11 since that game. Its only blemish was a 4-3 loss to Cloverdale on May 23. That game determined which team got the NCL I’s automatic invitation to NCS. It turned out the game didn’t matter because the Cardinals got a No. 1 seed anyway.
Cloverdale got the No. 4 seed in Division 4, and the Eagles were eliminated in the quarterfinal by Berean Christian.
The Clear Lake offense is percolating, with the Cardinals scoring 32 runs in two NCS games.
After receiving a bye in the first round, the Lake County school defeated Valley Christian, 18-0, in the quarterfinal.
Clear Lake (19-6) banged out 15 hits against St. Vincent pitchers Hannah Sarlatte and Amanda Yarger.
Emily Omiotek had three hits, including a double. Finishing with two hits apiece were Lila Ogden, Alicia Ledezma, Mina Werner, Garcia and Wingler.
For St. Vincent (16-11), McKenna Wilson-Kay and Haley Antonini had three hits apiece.