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Blue Ridge's Alana Strum (13) gets a high-five from teammate Jamison Brandt (18) after scoring a run against Moweaqua Central A&M in their Class 1A sectional semifinal Thursday, May 26, 2011, at Tri-Valley High School in Downs. (Pantagraph/CARLOS T. MIRANDA)

DOWNS — Maybe it was due to coming off an emotional win over Heart of Illinois Conference nemesis Tri-Valley in last Saturday’s Class 1A regional championship game.

Or maybe it was being forced to wait an extra day for the sectional opener because of a dangerous storm that blew through the area Wednesday night.

Either way, Blue Ridge High School softball coach Myron Schroeder says his Knights came out a bit on the flat side against Moweaqua Central A&M on Thursday night.

“I don’t think our intensity was very high tonight, for some reason,” said Schroeder, moments after his Knights disposed of A&M 8-1 in the Tri-Valley Sectional semifinal. “But it will be here Saturday, I guarantee it.”

Blue Ridge (28-5) earned the chance to avenge an early-season loss to Danville Schlarman in Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game by taking advantage of three A&M errors in the first inning to score four runs, none of them earned and all of them after there were two outs.

Two of the runs scored on a single by Melinda Wilson. The other two were plated on a throwing error on a routine ground ball that should have ended the inning.

Wilson paced the Knights with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate, accounting for nearly half of Blue Ridge’s eight hits in the contest and drawing rave reviews from Schroeder.

“Melinda continues to impress me every time she steps on the field,” he said.

Blue Ridge scored twice more in the fourth, aided by two more A&M errors. In all the Raiders committed seven fielding miscues.

The Knights also added a pair of runs in the fifth by more conventional means, piecing together three base hits in the inning to take an 8-0 advantage.

Pitcher Jordan Wheeler stymied A&M on two hits through the first five innings before seeing the shutout spoiled when the Raiders scored in the sixth.

A mixture of rise balls and a wicked changeup kept A&M off stride throughout the game and led to 12 strikeouts for the Blue Ridge ace. The Raiders (13-15) could muster only four hits.

Schlarman (35-2) advanced to Saturday’s title game with a 3-2 win over Tuscola in Thursday’s first game. The Hilltoppers scored all three of their runs in the third inning and then held on for the win.

Blue Ridge likely will play on Saturday without starting second baseman Hannah Mattingly. She was injured running out a ground ball to end the third inning on Thursday.

“Her ankle, I believe, is toast,” said Schroeder. “It’s either a bad sprain or possibly broke.”

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