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Salem no match for North, 7-0

Salem no match for North, 7-0
Salem no match for North, 7-0
The North Harrison softball team celebrates its repeat sectional title after the Lady Cats shut out Salem, 7-0.

The first five innings of the North Harrison softball sectional final between the host Lady Cats and Salem last Wednesday were like the quiet before the storm. When it finally hit, NH stormed for seven runs in the bottom of the sixth to get its second straight championship, 7-0.
‘I knew it was coming,’ said coach Ron Mitchell. ‘They were still making their plays in the field. They were still making contact with the bat. I knew it was just a matter of time, if we just stayed focused on defense, we would score.’
That’s not to say the Lady Cats didn’t have a few worrisome moments, however. In the top of the third inning, Salem’s Kayla Craven rapped a single. Then, with two outs, Whitney Mallory followed with a bunt hit, putting the Lady Lions in scoring position. Charissa Brooks, however, stopped Salem’s forward momentum, striking out Shaylee Brown.
‘I was so nervous the first couple of innings until the sixth, when we started hitting,’ Brooks said. ‘I knew basically that the first team that scored would probably get it, because we both have really good defenses. I just wanted to get some runs real quick.’
North Harrison put runners into scoring position in the third and fifth innings, but failed to convert.
On defense, Lady Cat Shayne Rhoads had two put-outs in the top of the fifth, the first one gunning down Victoria Taylor from right field, then catching a fly ball in the sun hit by Alyssa Clark.
‘When (Leigha Bowyer) missed the ball, I didn’t know whether or not I was going to have it, and all I was thinking about was to get the out so we could have our second sectional,’ Rhoads said.
In the bottom of the sixth, Salem called a huddle on the mound following a base hit by Brandi Pirtle. After that, lightning struck for the Lady Cats.
Renee Sullivan followed with a single and Samantha Johnson reached first on a Salem error, loading the bases. Brooks hit into a fielder’s choice, but Salem failed to get the out and Brandi Auberry, running for Pirtle, scored the first run. With one out, Salem failed to convert a Jenna Schneider grounder into a fielder’s choice, allowing Sullivan to score and keeping the bases full.
‘I knew I had to hit, because everyone was counting on us to get runs,’ Schneider said. ‘That was my responsibility as part of the team to help them out.’
Auberry reached safely on a second Lady Lion mistake, with Johnson crossing for the run. Brooks scored as well on a third error with Cortney Theineman batting. With two outs and the bases still full, Pirtle unloaded with a triple to right center field, good for three more runs.
‘She unloaded the bases,’ Mitchell said of his senior. ‘I told the seniors, ‘You’ve got to step up.’ They did, and we scored.’
‘Icing on the cake,’ Pirtle said of her hit. ‘She threw me a middle, really sweet pitch. It was right down the middle. I couldn’t pass it up.’
‘I told them before the game, before they even got up there, ‘If you stay focused nobody is going to beat you.’ ‘ Mitchell said. ‘We got a run and (Salem) kind of fell apart.’
‘It’s been a struggle to get solid hits,’ Pirtle said. ‘I don’t run very fast, so I knew if we get somebody on base, I know we’ll score, because I’m very confident in our team. I know we can hit the ball just as well as anybody else.’
North Harrison collected seven hits to Salem’s three. Brooks struck out 11 Salem batters and walked none.
Salem pitchers Brown and Tara Holstine recorded no strikeouts or walks, and the Lady Lions committed four errors.
‘Brooks pitched outstanding,’ Mitchell said. ‘I don’t know of any other pitcher who’s pitched three shutouts (in a sectional). She’s the big gun. How Brooks goes is how the team goes, just mentally if nothing else.’
Brooks gave the whole team credit.
‘It was mainly defense,’ she said. ‘Everybody backed me up. It wasn’t all me pitching. Everybody helped me out a lot. It’s crazy and exciting, too. I was just so proud of them for doing as well as they did.’
Pirtle said winning the section is like no other feeling.
‘I thought graduation would be exciting, but two, back-to-back sectional championships is unreal,’ she said.
‘Awesome,’ added Schneider. ‘ It seemed like at the beginning of the year, we didn’t know how we were going to do. We just got a lot better. We practiced a lot and worked hard.’
North Harrison (12-14) will meet No. 9-ranked Heritage Hills (21-3) at the Boonville High School Regional at about 2 p.m.
The game will be preceded at noon by a matchup between Edgewood (record n/a) and No. 4-ranked Gibson Southern (25-3-1).
The championship is that night at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $5 per session or $7 for a season pass.