Eagles will battle for sectional crown
LIZTON -- There was little doubt for those in attendance at the Tri-West No. 46 Softball Sectional that South Putnam came to play. In their first game, they cruised to an 11-2 win over the host Bruins and Thursday, they moved into the championship after defeating North Putnam 5-0.
The Eagles will face Cascade in the sectional final Saturday at 7 p.m. at Tri-West. Following the game, South Putnam head coach Chris Jones said that's where they wanted to be and acknowledged the caliber of opponent his team had just defeated.
"We're playing Saturday and that's what we're here for," Jones said. "We're moving on, you win and you advance and that's good. To beat a team four times is very difficult and they are a great team -- they really are. I thought Taylor Judy pitched one heck of a game, I really did. We had a couple hits here and there and took advantage of some errors.
"I'm proud of our girls," he continued. "Coming back from everything that happened last night, refocusing, taking finals today, and they stressed out over the finals, which I understand. Which is good because school is the most important thing, but they focused through that, came here got refocused and took care of business."
The game was to have been played Wednesday, but Mother Nature must have had other plans and didn't want to miss what was sure to be a good game. The delay didn't seemed to affect either team, but South Putnam was able to draw first blood and the Cougars were never able to recover.
After dispatching the first three Cougars who came to the plate, the Eagles put up two runs in the bottom of the inning on starting pitcher Brooke Boetjer's double to left-center field to score Krystal Welch and Jenny Thompson.
Two innings later, South Putnam tacked on three more runs as Megan Barnes reached on an error, allowing two runs to scamper across the plate. Boetjer pinch runner Brenly Bratcher came across the plate early when North Putnam pitcher Taylor Judy walked Kelsey Whitaker with the bases loaded.
Meanwhile, Boetjer had things dialed in for the Eagles. She didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning and the only batter to reach base until that point was put there by when Boetjer was cited for an illegal pitch. On the night, Boetjer struck out 10 North Putnam batters and allowed just two hits.
"Brooke pitched one heck of a game -- absolutely one heck of a game. Our defense was focused and had her back. Anytime they put the ball in play, we were there. Somebody may have bobbled it or missed it, the next person was right behind them. A total team effort," Jones said.
The Cougars' bats finally came alive in the sixth as Elisana Crosby and Dakota Parent both smacked singles. A walk put on Dakota Malayer. Unlike the other innings, it wasn't Boetjer who put the sixth inning to rest for the Eagles.
With the batter sitting on a count of no balls and two strikes, South Putnam catcher Thompson took the Boetjer offering, leapt to her feet and fired a shot to third base to catch Parent before she could get back to end the inning.
In the final inning, North Putnam's season came to a close as South Putnam's short stop Emily Dabkowski was able to dig out a hard hit grounder by Morgan Robinson and throw to first for the final out.
On the night, Boetjer was 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs, while Dabkowski was 1-for-4 with a double.
Fittingly for the Cougars, two of its seniors, Crosby and Parent, accounted for the only two North Putnam hits on the night.
Following the game, with his team saying their goodbyes with smiles on their faces, but tears in their eyes behind him, North Putnam head coach Jim Brothers was unable to comment on the game.
On the other hand, Jones spoke at length about where his team is at mentally and how they've dealt with the delays and time changes.
"These girls are softball players," a grinning Jones commented. "First and foremost, they want to play. Last night, if you would have put a dome around this place, they would have played. If it rains and we can play wherever -- go to Indianapolis and play, go to Fort Wayne -- it doesn't matter. They just want to play softball."
When asked whether or not the seemingly continuous time changing for the sectional final had an affect on his team, Jones said it's all about focus. An aspect of the game his team has worked on all season and seems to have under control.
"They have done a great job of learning to focus," Jones said. "Early in the year, we worked on that and we struggled with it early. Now, we've done a really good job of it. They know when to focus. They've learned when to focus. With all the delays and everything that has gone on, you can't focus all the time. You can't be intense all the time -- it's impossible. And they've learned, and we've talked about it a lot, you focus when it's time to focus and you can relax and have fun when it's not.
"If you saw us last night during the delay, they were having themselves a lot of fun. They were enjoying the state tournament, the atmosphere, the people, the crowd and that's just what we have to keep doing," Jones said
The Eagles will face Cascade Saturday at 7 p.m. for the sectional crown, but the day is more significant for the team's lone senior Welch. Saturday marks South Putnam's graduation, but as Jones indicated, that will play little factor in the mentality of his squad. They simply want to go to work.
"You can say it's a distraction and use it as an excuse because now we have to play on our graduation," Jones said. "And you can use that as an excuse, but we're not going to do that. We want to play softball and we wanted to be in the championship now matter where they play it, when they play it -- we don't care, we just want to play."
Class 2A No. 46 Softball Sectional
North Putnam 000 000 0 -- 0 2 3
South Putnam 203 000 x -- 5 6 0
WP -- Boetjer
LP -- Judy
2B -- Boejter (SP) 2, Dabkowski (SP)
Next game -- South Putnam will face Cascade for the Class 2A sectional crown Saturday at 7 p.m.