MATTOON -- The best thing that might have happened to Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin is a 1-0 loss to about two weeks ago to Effingham. The Cyclones only mustered three hits and had trouble figuring out Hearts pitcher Aly Armstrong.
The loss seemingly woke up a sleeping giant in SHG’s offense.
On Tuesday, the Cyclones got a chance to show Armstrong and the rest of the Hearts how much their offense has improved in two weeks.
The Cyclones (30-5) put runners on in the first two innings before putting three runs on the board thanks to Renee Abernathy’s three-run home run.
SHG piled on six more runs in the fourth inning and Cyclone pitcher Whitney David held Effingham scoreless for the first six innings as Sacred Heart-Griffin defeated Effingham 9-2 in the Class 3A sectional semifinals.
Abernathy said the loss to Effingham the first time around helped fuel the offense in this game.
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“We were really bummed after that loss and we felt we didn’t come out prepared enough for that kind of pitching,” Abernathy said. “They definitely jumped up on us for that. In the past 12 days, we’ve focused on our hitting. It’s really paying off.
"I think it’s good that we got to play them earlier in the season so we didn’t have that wake-up call today.”
SHG coach Al Yoho said Armstrong is one of the best pitchers his team has faced this season.
“This little girl at Effingham is one heck of a pitcher and we probably hadn’t faced anyone that good in probably a week or two,” Yoho said. “Now we are starting to come around. There’s not a weak out in this lineup. We are starting to come around when we need to.”
David held Effingham to only seven hits and kept the Flaming Hearts guessing throughout the game.
“We worked on different pitches from the last game and threw some different pitches this game,” David said. “It kept them off balance. I threw more off-speed and went more outside.”
Effingham got a runner past second for the first time in the game in the seventh inning and Alissa Kersey ended David’s shutout bid by scoring on an error. Chloe Funneman later scored on Carsyn Fearday’s single, but David got the next out to end the game.