The Eagles' trip to Ferdinand netted them two wins in the IHSAA 2A South Semi-State and a trip to the 2A State Championship Game this Saturday at Ben Davis High School.
The competition level was raised significantly as the Eagles first took on No. 8 Frankton in the morning game.
South Putnam threatened to score in the first inning. Following a pair of strikeouts, Kelsey Whitaker was hit by a pitch and advanced to second after Brooke Boetjer walked.
Jenna Jones slapped a single to right field and Whitaker took off for home. The throw home from Eagle outfielder Taylor Ryan was on the money and Whitaker was tagged for the third out of the inning.
In the fourth, Frankton scored the opening run of the game. Courtney Condon singled to lead off the frame before Karli Clark advanced the catcher to second on a bounce out to second.
A walk issued to Lexi Gray was coupled by an illegal pitch thrown by Boetjer, which moved Condon to third. Ryan then grounded to first, scoring the Frankton catcher. Boetjer then got Sydney Smith to ground to second, stranding Gray on third base.
The Eagles responded immediately in the bottom half of the inning. Whitaker struck out before Boetjer hammered a double and Jones hit her second single of the game. Megan Barnes stepped up and laid down a squeeze bunt to score Brooke Cundiff, in running for Boetjer, to knot the game at 1-all.
Destiny Tomasino then hit a looping shot into center field that scored Jones to give South Putnam a 2-1 lead before MaKenzie Trisler bounced out to second to end the inning.
South added a third run in the fifth to extend the lead. Emily Dabkowski singled and took second on a passed ball before being driven in by Jenny Thompson's single.
Frankton threatened in the sixth after Condon and Clark reached on back-to-back singles. Boetjer buckled down, inducing a ground out and fly out to end the threat.
The Eagles looked to add on to their lead in the bottom of the inning, but after a walk to Jones, a sac bunt from Barnes and Tomasino getting hit by a pitch, South could not get Jones in, helping to set up what would be a suspenseful finale.
Peyton Rogers led off the seventh with a single, followed by a double from Samantha Stinson that had runners on second and third. Morgan Harvey popped up to Boetjer for the inning's first out.
Allison Parr then stepped into the box, which began the game's defining moment.
Parr and Boetjer battled in a twelve pitch at-bat, with Parr fouling off several pitches before weakly flying out to left field for the second out. Shaley Jackson then fouled out to Jones at third to end the game.
Eagle head coach Chris Jones said later that it was a great effort to get back into the game after the Eagles fell behind.
"I would say we battled back. It's been a while since we've been behind. They jumped on us, got a run, but we were able to answer in the same inning, and then in the following inning we came through and got an extra run to win it 3-1," Jones said.
It was a performance highlighted by an error-free defense and a strong will to succeed.
"What a performance by Brooke, both pitching and fielding. She got us going with the bat as well. Jenna Jones did a great job for us today. Everyone got a ball in the field for us, fielded it cleanly, got outs when we needed them and we played a complete team game, which is what you have to do at this level," Jones said.
"It speaks to our mental toughness and our work ethic. Everyday in practice, we work on situations like that with the pressure on us to see how we can handle it. They got runners in scoring position with less than two outs and we handled it well," Jones added when asked about the seventh inning.
"Brooke kept fighting. To get that second out in the seventh inning against Frankton, they battled. Frankton's a great team. They play had and they work hard. Parr battled Brooke and she battled right back and finally got her to pop out to Kelsey.
"We got the last girl to pop up as well and won the game. Our focus and mental toughness is what got us through that game," Jones said.
With South in the Semi-State Championship game, the Eagles headed for cooler places as the temperature began to rise steadily. In the second game, No. 13 Indianapolis Scecina defeated Clarksville 11-1 to set up the final for that evening.
Game two started off brightly for the Eagles. A lead off double from Dabkowski set the tone quickly. Thompson put a bunt down to move Dabkowski to third and Whitaker laid a bunt down to bring in the shortstop for a quick 1-0 lead.
Boetjer promptly took Scecina starter Michelle Rogers out of the park in center field to double the Eagle lead and send doubts among the Crusaders.
The doubts were confirmed when Rogers was lifted for Kayla Craft after a lead off walk to Dabkowski in the third. Craft promptly retired the next eight batters in the Eagle line-up.
Once Dabkowski came back around in the sixth, however, she took Craft deep to left-center and extended the lead to 3-0.
Scecina, up until the seventh inning, had only gotten runners to second twice and had stranded both there. It had hurt its own cause with two runner interference calls and had generally been unable to solve Boetjer.
Again, though, South Putnam was forced to bare down to seal the win. Lead off singles from Megan Kehl and Rogers gave Scecina its best scoring chance of the game. A grounder to third allowed Jones to take care of the lead runner but left runners on first and second with one out.
Boetjer would strike out Craft but another illegal pitch moved both runners up to second and third. Megan Whisler then hit a dribbler that managed to stop in-between Jones, Boetjer and Thompson, allowing Rogers to score.
Sarah Catton tried to extend the game but Boetjer notched her eighth strikeout to end the game and win the Southern Semi-State.
Afterwards, a water-drenched Jones said the opening runs allowed the Eagles to control the game.
"Emily and Brooke hit a couple of bombs in this game. To start off with Emily doubling and having two people move her and get her in, that was the momentum we wanted to start with and Brooke's home run added to what we wanted to do," Jones said.
After the pitching change, though, the Eagles offense sputtered for awhile before finally getting an insurance run. Jones said the squad just needed a little time.
"We needed some time to adjust. Rogers threw harder, straight line pitches where Craft had more movement to her throws. It took a time through the line-up to see her and adjust. Once we did, we were able to put the ball more in play."
Jones again noted the defense in the winning performance and noted the lone senior on his squad as a prime example.
"I tell you what, Megan Barnes had a defensive performance today. What a great job she did, whether it was fielding the ball through the runners or making play at first base, she did a great job," Jones said.
The win sets up the 2A State Final clash with No. 1 seed Woodlan, who jumped the Eagles for the spot in the final polls and whom beat No. 12 Tipton and No. 10 Hebron to advance to the title game.
The only No. 1 v. No. 2 game in the state finals, it pits possibly the best two pitchers in the state against one another when Boetjer will trade shots with the Warriors' Hannah Robbins.
When asked, Jones said both squads would be looking to show that their offense was the better bet.
"You would think it would be a pitcher's duel, but I would not be shocked to see both offenses come to play. I'm looking for an absolutely competitive game. It's going to come down to execution and getting runs however you can," Jones said.
"With Woodlan, the IGCSA got it right. It's one versus two. Let's put on a show for them. At 1:30 on Saturday next week, let's throw it out there and see what happens. I like what our girls are bringing to the table during this tournament run.
"If we can keep that energy and that focus and that effort, I like what we can do on Saturday."
At Forest Park High School, Ferdinand, Indiana
IHSAA 2A South Semi-State
Frankton 000 100 0 --1 6 0
South Putnam 000 210 X -- 3 6 0
WP -- Boetjer (19-1)
LP -- Clark (8-5)
2B -- Boetjer (SP), Stinson (F)
South Putnam 200 001 0-- 3 5 0
Indianapolis Scecina 000 000 1-- 1 6 1
WP -- Boetjer (20-1)
LP -- Rogers (10-5)
2B -- Dabkowski (SP), Tarver (IS)
HR -- Boetjer, Dabkowski (SP)
Next game -- South Putnam (27-1) faces Woodlan (26-2) in the IHSAA 2A State Championship Game at Ben Davis High School Saturday at 1:30 PM.