"After the worst feeling I've had on a softball field (Monday) night, this is the best feeling," he said. "I just can't say enough. I am so proud of these girls."
Monday's defeat came on the heels of a similar 11-0 loss to Edgewood on Saturday. Having been 10-run-ruled twice in three days, it was easy to see how Keller and the Tiger Cubs could get down. What was not easy to foresee was how they would respond on Tuesday.
"We just wanted this one. I think we just wanted it a little more," Keller said. "This was unbelievable after (Monday) night."
Keller's team came out with a new lineup in the field and a new attitude. His combo on the left side and middle of the infield -- second baseman Jessica Miller, shortstop Veronica Sawyer and third baseman Kayla Nobles -- was playing its first game together. After tonight's performance, Keller will probably stick to the new lineup.
"We might've found a combo," he said.
In the third, South's Meghan Canary hit a sharp grounder down the third base line that Nobles stopped before turning and beating Canary to first with the throw.
For her part, Sawyer made a couple of big plays in the seventh as the game threatened to swing South Putnam's way. The first was a jumping grab on a line-drive from Megan Robinson. What looked like a base hit to start the inning was instead an out. The other was her stop and ensuing throw to third for the game's final out.
"Veronica played awesome," Keller said.
The Tiger Cubs did their scoring early and then relied on that solid defense to take care of the rest. After leaving two on base in the first, they came back hungrier in the second. Sarah Land and Rowings opened with consecutive singles. Two batters later, Sawyer loaded the bases when she was hit by a pitch. The bases remained loaded with Jessica Miller's fielder's choice. Then Cassie Alspaugh reached on an error that scored Rowings and Sawyer. Tabitha Wilson immediately followed with a two-run single. She was thrown out going for second, but the damage was already done. The Tiger Cubs had a 4-0 lead.
The two innings were all South starter Samantha Tomasino would last. In picking up the loss, she allowed four runs on four hits and one hit batsman.
Sophomore Oceaia Boetjer came on in relief. While she got the first two batters, Land then doubled. Rowings' single would drive her in to push the lead to 5-0.
With a team that has had as much success as the Eagles this season, it never looked like they were out of it. In the fourth, the looked like they were starting to wake up. Boetjer led off the inning with a walk, and a Sam Stanifer double would drive her in three batters later.
In the fifth, a Canary double drove in another run. Boetjer reached next on yet another walk. But both would remain on base. This was a common theme for the Eagles. With six hits and six walks on the night, they had plenty of base runners. The just couldn't drive them in. On the night, they left 10 runners on base, including seven over the last four innings. The most devastating of these was leaving the bases loaded to end the game in the seventh.
"We didn't hit the ball. We left too many runners on," South Putnam coach Evonne Canary said. "We had some errors that contributed to the loss and some missed opportunities."
Still, she liked how her team battled when they found themselves down five. The big hits just never came.
"At the same time, they battled back. They showed some heart," Canary said.
Part of that battle came from Boetjer's relief appearance. After allowing two hits and a run in her first inning, she was perfect the rest of the way, retiring the side in the fourth, fifth and sixth. She finished her four innings with six strikeouts, allowing one run on two hits.
For the Tiger Cubs, starter Cassie Alspaugh lasted into the sixth inning, allowing two runs on four hits and five walks. She struck out three Eagles in the victory. After South's Katelyn Sibbitt opened the sixth with a ground-rule double, Keller brought Nobles in to finish the game. The coach thought the change in styles from Alspaugh's speed to Nobles' offspeed and location pitches was perfect.
"Cassie coming back as strong as she did (from Monday) was big. Then Kayla coming with her offspeed worked well," Keller said.
Nobles did her job well. She got outs from her first three batters in the sixth and then survived the big scare of the seventh unscathed. In picking up the save, she collected three strikeouts while allowing two hits.
The coach was mainly proud of how his team battled against one of the big teams in the county and the WCC.
"(South) is a team that's vying for a conference championship," he said. "I think that gives us confidence going into the county tourney. We beat one of the favorites."
Having hung with conference leader Speedway for two games a couple of weeks back, Keller's pointed out his team has played three of its four games with the WCC's top two right down to the wire. Monday was the only exception.
"We have nothing to lose, so we went out there loose," he said.
Wins like this and even the close losses are important to a young team.
"When you win games and they're so young, you are very proud of them. They beat a very good ball club" Keller said.
The Tiger Cubs improved to 4-14 overall and 3-7 in the WCC. They will next play North Putnam in the first round of Saturday's Putnam County Tournament. The Eagles fell to 9-4 overall and 7-2 in conference. They host Cloverdale in another WCC game today at 4:30 p.m.
South Putnam 000 110 0 -- 2 6 2
Greencastle 041 000 X -- 5 6 0
Tomasino, Boetjer (3) and Canary. Alspaugh, Nobles (6) and Wilson.
W -- Alspaugh
L -- Tomasino
Sv -- Nobles
2B -- Stanifer, Canary, Sibbitt (SP), Land (Gc)
Next game -- South Putnam hosts Cloverdale today at 4:30 p.m. Greencastle will face North Putnam on Saturday in the Putam County Tournament.
COUNTY SOFTBALL ROUNDUP
Clovers fall to Linton
CLOVERDALE -- A big first inning from the Miners did in Cloverdale softball Tuesday night, as they fell to Linton-Stockton, 11-1 in five innings. The Miners scored seven in the top of the first.
"(We) started poorly, having three walks and five errors in the first inning," said Cloverdale Coach Greg Crum.
Linton added another run in the second and three in the third. A lone Clover run in the fourth was not enough.
Cloverdale collected just three hits on the night, with one each from Hannah Monnett, Chelsie Haltom and Kristin McCammon.
Pitcher Jennifer Wiley allowed 11 runs on nine hits and five walks. She struck out three Miner batters.
The Clovers return to action at 4:30 p.m. tonight at South Putnam.