It took longer than expected for Evans softball to advance Tuesday -- a lot longer -- but the Knights eventually prevailed behind strong pitching.
Senior pitcher Jenny Shepherd was masterful in two shutout victories during a marathon tripleheader, ousting Wayne County in the best of three series.
Evans, champions of Region 3-AAAA, advanced to the second round of the Class AAAA softball playoffs, which was played Friday.
Shepherd admitted afterwards that she was nervous going into Game 1. She appeared to be anything but timid on the mound, fanning a combined 21 batters in Game 1 and Game 3, both 3-0 Evans victories.
"I was a little nervous coming back from my knee surgery, but it felt good," Shepherd said. "That pumped me up and I was pumped up knowing that we had a chance to move on in the state."
Because of the threat of rain Wednesday, the teams played all three games of the series Tuesday after Wayne County (11-10), the fourth seed out of Region 2-AAAA, avoided a sweep with a 2-0 victory in Game 2.
In the first game, Shepherd struck out nine and also drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly in the first inning, scoring Savanna Gladue.
In Game 2, Wayne County starting pitcher Natalie Manning pitched seven shutout innings and drove in the only runs of the victory with a two-run homer off Evans starter Brooke Sarver in the first.
In the nightcap, Shepherd returned to the hill to strike out 12. She finished the game by sitting down 14 of the last 15 batters she faced.
Juniors Kristin Hampson and Kayla Cates each had RBI singles.
The Lady Knights (24-7-1) moved on to play host to the winner of the Alcovy-Thomas County Central series.
"I'm pretty confident about our team right now, but we've got to keep getting better and better, which we are," Evans coach Colette Cassedy said. "We've got a really solid group."
Augusta Chronicle staff writer Joey Jones contributed to this story.
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