LIZTON -- North Putnam's season had been roller-coasteresque heading into the sectional opener against Cascade. The events of the day reaffirmed that notion but did so in the wrong way.
Scoring came in the last two innings and though the Cougars had opportunities to score late, they couldn't muster enough offense as the Cadets won 2-1.
Having barely started the game, a nearly two hour rain delay threatened to push back the IHSAA Sectional 46 opener to Tuesday, but a clearing in the action allowed the game to restart at 7 p.m.
Once play resumed, a pitching duel ensued between North's Taylor Judy and Cascade's Kate Breedlove that would keep the game scoreless until the sixth inning.
Cascade had the first chance to score in the third inning. Judy hit the opening batter before walking another later in the inning before getting the heart of the order to pop up twice into the infield to end the threat.
Neither side would threaten thereafter until the sixth inning, when Cascade scored the opening run of the game.
Brandyce Sallee started the inning off when a triple down the rightfield line and Bridget Smith walked to set up a promising inning before Judy struck out Aubry Bridges.
Hillary Tomblin laid down a bunt but it went to the charging Lauren Green at first. Sallee was held up, but when Green threw to first, the catch was missed, allowing Tomblin to reach and Sallee to score.
The Cougars were able to escape further ham when Judy got a strikeout and a little help from Tomblin. Morgan Estes hit a shot towards shortstop Alyssa Roberts, but before she could reach it, Tomblin ran into her and was out due to runner obstruction when it was likely she was going to score.
North Putnam was able to get one back in the bottom of the inning. Katie Rooker led off the inning with a walk before Katie Welch singled. After Roberts struck out, Judy hit a bloop single that fell in between the Cadet defense.
However, Welch, had to wait for the ball to land, wasn't able to reach second before the ball came back in and left the Cougars with two on and two outs.
The next pitch from Breedlove went to the backstop, allowing Rooker to score and nod the game at 1-1. Morgan Robinson walked two put runners on first and second, but Green struck out to end the threat.
Cascade would take the lead right back in the top of the seventh. An error allowed Sydney Stein to reach base before Courtney Stephenson smashed a double that platted the Cadet's second run before Judy whittled down the next three batters.
North tried to rally in the bottom of the inning, and though Danielle Harbison reached base and was moved over by Bridget Johnston, Rooker was struck out to end the game and the season for the Cougars.
The loss concluded a tightly contested set of games between Cascade, but for Cougar head coach Chase Hiland and his squad, they lost the rubber match and the most important of the three games.
"These games with Cascade have all been tight. Each one has been either a one or two run game, and it was going to come down to who made a real big hit or a mistake," Hiland said.
"In the sixth inning, we made that mistake. We did get the run back, starting with a good at-bat by Katie Rooker. We had runners at first and third after a hit that dropped in but we lost the runner at second on the throw.
"Another error cost us in the seventh. We let the lead-off hitter on too much tonight, and they scored off Stephenson. We couldn't find an answer after that. In the end, Cascade was the team that got the big hit and didn't make the mistakes in the end," Hiland added.
For first year coach Hiland, it was a solid season with a squad that meshed well.
"The first thing about being a coach this year is that I've had a good relationship with the players. They've formed a bond as a close group, and they were a fun group to coach, even with all of their goofiness," Hiland said.
"The last time we played Cascade, we won 5-4, but that was similar to most of the games we played this season. All of the games were tight until the very end."
"We had three seniors who had great seasons, Taylor Judy, Danielle Harbison and Lauren Green. Hopefully this a high point in their careers and this is something that they will remember," Hiland mentioned.
While next season is far away from now, Hiland already is enthusiastic about what is in store for the Cougars.
"We're still a young team. Five starters tonight got their first sectional game in tonight. They got experience, a feel for the big games and next year they'll progress from that," Hiland said.
"We've got a young pitcher coming up that will help try and fill the void left by Taylor, who will be hard to replace. We've got solid talent, and in the off-season we need to commit to winning games, hitting better and improving from this year."
"Tonight was just an example of how softball is sometimes. We'll look forward to this off-season and make improvements heading into next year."
At Tri-West High School
IHSAA Sectional #46
Cascade 000 001 1 - 2 3 1
North Putnam 000 001 0 - 1 3 2
WP - Breedlove
LP - Judy
2B - Stephenson (CA)
3B - Bra. Sallee (CA)