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Archer, Cabrales sweep past North, earn first trip to Columbus

SUWANEE -- After being shut out twice by Archer's Nani Cabrales during last year's postseason, North Gwinnett was finally able to solve her to score a few runs in its second round Class AAAAAA state playoff doubleheader.

That was the good news. The bad news was that runs were still scarce for the Bulldogs, and the Tigers' senior also was a problem for them at the plate, as well.

Cabrales threw two complete games in the circle and added two hits, including a home run, and two RBIs at the plate as Archer posted wins of 5-1 and 7-2 to sweep the series Wednesday at North.

The Tigers (29-7) also got a big day at the plate from Abby Lyall (3-for-6, two RBIs), Alesha Mann (2-for-5, three walks, five runs) and Jacquie Switzer (3-for-7, four RBIs) to earn their first trip to the state tournament in the program's brief history next week in Columbus.

"We talked to the girls all week about taking that next step," Archer coach Kristopher Daniels said. "(Wednesday), we took that next step."

Cabrales (20-4) gave the Tigers a big boost in taking that next step with two more wins against North (22-9-2), even though she wasn't quite as dominating as she was when she posted identical 1-0 shutouts in the first round of last year's playoffs.

The Bulldogs were able to score three runs against her this time, including their first earned run in 28 innings against the Georgia Tech-bound right-hander.

They especially had plenty of chances to do some damage against her in Game 2, when they put the leadoff hitter on base in all seven innings, but they could never quite break through.

"My pitches started not working (in Game 2)," Cabrales said. "But me and my pitching coach (Heather McAfee) started talking it out a little bit with our catcher Jenna Graham, and we started figuring out more pitches that would work within the innings. But I knew my teammates could back me up really well."

Each team took advantage of mistakes by its opponent to strike for an unearned run that left the opener tied 1-1 after an inning before Cabrales took matters into her own hands.

The senior did her first damage coming to the plate with two outs and the bases empty in the top of the third and lining a 1-0 pitch from Kelsey Jennings (12-1) into the screen just over the fence in straightaway center for a solo homer that put Archer up 2-1.

After pitching around a pair of walks in the bottom of the inning, Cabrales found her groove in the circle by setting down 11 straight North hitters before working out of some trouble in the seventh.

By the time that happened, the Tigers had struck for three more runs-on Abby Lyall's two-out, RBI single in the fifth, plus a sacrifice fly by Lyall and an RBI single from Cabrales in the top of the seventh to make the score 5-1.

And Cabrales was able to close out a complete-game victory in which she allowed just three hits and one unearned run and struck out seven.

But it looked like North might strike early in the nightcap when Alaina Hall laid down a perfect bunt on the game's first pitch for a single, the first of her four hits in four trips to the plate.

Even after the senior rightfielder was gunned down trying to steal, the Bulldogs still had a chance to score when Mallory Koepke legged out an infield single and Ashley Stephan drew a two-out walk to put runners on first and second.

However, Cabrales got Draven Sonnen to fly out to left to end the inning.

It would be the first of many chances North would squander, with the Bulldogs stranding eight runners on the game -- five of them in the first three innings alone.

"We didn't execute on bunts, and then we just didn't get the big hit," North coach Randy Black said. "And then getting down to Nani again (didn't help), but we still had our chances."

Those chances took on greater importance when Archer sent 10 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the first with four coming home, two of them on Switzer's single, that helped the Tigers jump to an early 4-0 lead.

Switzer then drove in two more with a double in the fourth, and by the time the Bulldogs plated one run on a passed ball in the sixth and Koepke's RBI groundout in the seventh, Archer's lead was comfortable.

And Cabrales closed out a day in which she scattered 11 hits and just one earned run and struck out 15 over 14 innings.