Staff Photo: John Bohn Archer shortstop Alesha Mann (3) reaches for a ball hit by North Gwinnett's Draven Sonnon during the second inning of the first round of state softball playoffs Wednesday at Archer. Sonnon singled while Archer defeated North Gwinnett 3-0.
Click here for more game photos
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Defense and pitching are the keys to success in softball. For Archer, that's exactly what it got in a doubleheader sweep of North Gwinnett in the first round of the state softball playoffs, beating the Bulldogs, 3-0 and 1-0.
Nani Cabrales pitched two complete games in the circle for the Tigers, totaling 14 strikeouts, while giving up six hits.
"Our pitcher was in control the whole game," said Archer head coach Kristopher Daniels. "She made them hit her pitches."
Archer (24-11) took control of the first game, capitalizing on an error by the North Gwinnett defense in the bottom of the third.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Archer's Abby Lyall popped up between the first and second basemen. However, miscommunication allowed the ball to drop and two runs scored, giving Cabrales the lead she needed to control the rest of the game in the circle.
The Bulldogs (23-10-1) looked to score in the fourth and fifth innings, but a ground out ended the fourth, while a double play ended the fifth.
Archer added a run in the bottom of the fifth when Alesha Mann legged out an infield single. Jenna Graham then laced an RBI double to the wall in left field, putting the Tigers up 3-0.
Cabrales got six of the next seven batters out, giving the Tigers the Game 1 victory, as she struck out six in the game, while giving up three hits.
In the second game, Archer immediately jumped out to an advantage as Cabrales singled to left-center with two outs.
With Taylor Harris on as a courtesy runner, Alesha Mann laced an RBI double to give the Tigers what would be the only run of the game.
North Gwinnett loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning, but Cabrales got Lacey Najafi to pop out to end the threat.
"Our defense made big plays throughout the night," Daniels said.
From the second inning to the fifth, Cabrales maintained control of the game as she retired 11 straight batters before Alaina Hall got on with a bunt single.
Archer looked to add runs in the sixth and seventh innings, but were unable to do so, stranding two in the sixth and one in the seventh.
Then, with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Mo Strother lined the ball off Cabrales to reach first. However, the shot didn't face the senior pitcher as she got a strikeout and a groundout to end the game.
"We were disappointed after losing the region title, but I told the girls that our season goals were still within reach," Daniels said. "Our ultimate goal is not to win a region title, it's to make it to Columbus and win a state title."