ELLETTSVILLE -- A clutch three-run sixth inning for the Greencastle High School softball team led to a 3-2 defeat of the Owen Valley Patriots in the opening round of the IHSAA Girls' Softball State Tournament at Edgewood.
The Tiger Cubs had been hitless until the fifth and were unable to advance a runner beyond second base until the late game heroics from the meat of Greencastle's line up.
The game began well for the Patriots as lead off hitter Kassandra Ooley smashed a double, followed quickly by Kayla Richardson's triple put Owen Valley up 1-0 just two at bats into the game. Clean up hitter Alissa Polley's flew out to right field for the second out of the inning, but it was deep enough to score Richardson and put a second run on the board for the visitors.
Greencastle's defense quickly stepped up following the two-run first inning. After managing six consecutive fly-outs including the sacrifice fly, Ooley rocketed her second hit of the game before she was expertly forced into an out at second on a ground ball to the infield. Richardson, reaching on the fielder's choice, was caught stealing by Tiger Cub catcher Trinity Brown.
"They (Owen Valley) started the game off with two blasts," Greencastle head coach Dave Keller said after the game. "One was off the wall and another was at the base of the wall. You can't make those plays.
"We keep telling the girls if we play defense, our bats will get us there."
Shortstop Taylor Pruitt blocked the base after catching the throw from Brown, obtaining a nasty cleat mark in her ankle. She would remain in the game and play an important role in the events of the sixth inning.
With their first and only hit coming for Greencastle in the bottom of the fifth, things were looking bleak with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Alex Basile reached safely after a miscue by the shaky Patriot third baseman, and Pruitt was able to hustle a sacrifice bunt into a single, putting two runners on with one out for first baseman Riley Seahorn. The righty crushed a ball into deep right-center field for a double, plating Pruitt and courtesy runner Danielle Hunt to tie the ball game. The Tiger Cubs weren't finished there. Jessie Bennette smashed a ball off of the wall in center field, easily scoring pinch runner Ellen Gobert, but Bennette was thrown out on an impressive relay from center field to third base.
"We were having trouble getting things going early off of their pitcher," Keller quipped regarding his girl's offensive challenges, "but I kept telling them if we keep hitting it, eventually it will fall in and they did."
Though deflated, Owen Valley had no plans of rolling over to die in the top of the seventh, but the Greencastle defense had other plans.
Rebecca Strong led things off for the Patriots, but her shot up the middle deflected off of Tiger Cub pitcher Basile's glove directly to Bennett's, and the third baseman easily threw Strong out at first. Patriot catcher Madison Summerlot slapped an outside fastball into right field to put a runner on first, bringing up Katrina Dayhuff who had every intention of sacrificing pinch runner Taylor Elliot to second. Her bunt attempt shot nearly straight up just feet into the air before spinning towards the earth, and Bennette sprawled out to make the catch. She rose to her feet, and with the entire Greencastle dugout shouting, threw the ball to Seahorn to end the game.
The win was an emotional one for the entire Greencastle team, the first since any of the girls had started high school.
"Our motto is 'defense keeps us in the game, offense wins it,' and it certainly did tonight. Our seniors don't want this all to end and you could certainly tell how much they care."
Greencastle was led offensively by Basile, Pruitt, Seahorn and Benettee in the sixth, but the first hit of the game came from Delanie Stoltey in the first. No Tiger Cub ended with more than one hit, and Seahorn managed two of the three runs batted in. Basile pitched a complete game, allowing just five hits and two runs with a single walk and three strike outs.
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