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Regional champs: Lady Cats pick off Dearborn

Regional champs: Lady Cats pick off Dearborn
Regional champs: Lady Cats pick off Dearborn
North Harrison shortstop Kendra Lambert picks off South DearbornÂ’s Margo Tedesco on a steal attempt. Catcher Amber Longest threw out the base runner in the fourth inning of North HarrisonÂ’s 3-1 victory in Aurora. Photos by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

The North Harrison softball team made the more than two-hour trek to South Dearborn for a one-game regional last Tuesday.
The Lady Cats took care of business, capturing the school’s first Class 3A Regional softball championship and sent the South Dearborn season packing after a 3-1 victory.
‘It’s a great accomplishment,’ said North Harrison coach John Lambert. ‘Give the kids credit because we talked about scratching a few runs early and putting pressure on (South Dearborn). Miranda (Whelan) pitched great all night, and (Alyssa) McAfee made an ESPN SportsCenter play in centerfield. We got people on base, moved runners around and got big hits to get runs on the board.’
Despite coming from behind for several wins this season, the Lady Cats went the alternate route, scoring early and hanging on.
North Harrison threatened in the first inning with a Kendra Lambert hit and a Kenedy House walk; however, neither was able to score. The scoring changed in the second inning when the Lady Cats took care of bringing home runs.
Brooke Lamon led off with a single and was advanced a base on a Melanie Johnson sacrifice bunt. The next batter, Bri Lampton, rocketed a ball, burning the right fielder for an RBI double. After Tabby Bozynski’s groundout advanced Lampton to third, McAfee laced a ball to center, scoring her teammate.
‘Bri has the ability to smoke the ball every time she gets to the plate,’ Lambert said.
From that point, pitching and defense took over.
Kooper Vertz’s lead-off single in the bottom of the second was negated when North Harrison turned a tricky double play off Chloe Bugni’s sac bunt attempt. Johnson’s throw to first took care of Bugni, but House received the ball at second then fired to teammate Kendra Lambert at second to pickoff Vertz, who rounded second too far.
‘I always look for the play,’ House said. ‘I saw the base open up and nailed her.’
House carried the mo-mentum to her offense the next inning, leading off with a single. She came around to score when Lamon slapped a ball in the infield to put the Lady Cats up 3-0 in the middle of the third.
South Dearborn’s Amber Brindley led off the bottom half with a walk, but Whelan struck out the next three batters. She finished the game with six strikeouts.
Whelan depended on her defense to get out of a hairy fifth inning jam.
Bugni won a long at-bat, drawing a lead-off walk for the Lady Knights. Following a sac bunt and a wild pitch, Bugni scored on a fielder’s choice. Amber Brindley hit a grounder to shortstop Lambert, whose throw was in time to the plate, but Bugni knocked the ball loose to plate a Lady Knights run.
South Dearborn eventually loaded the bases via a Morgan Wolfer single and a Jessica Benton walk. With two outs, Ellen Barrett sent a long fly to deep right center. Lady Cat centerfield McAfee tracked the ball down on the run for the key final out.
‘I started off not feeling too well, but it eventually got better,’ Whelan said. ‘If we wouldn’t have the defense we had tonight, there is no way we are moving on. Alyssa made a game-saving catch that saved a bunch of runs that could have scored.’
South Dearborn put a runner on with two outs in the sixth inning for the final threat of the game. Whelan, however, was able to get Vertz to fly out.
‘Usually we get down and come back, but this time it was good to get up and stay up,’ House said. ‘We’re super confident because we know we have a lot of talent on the field. Miranda threw well like she always does.’
All of North Harrison’s scoring came against South Dearborn starter Erica Baldrick. Vertz came on in relief in the fourth inning and didn’t allow another Lady Cat run.
‘We knew the top of their order is as deadly as ours,’ Lambert said of his knowledge of South Dearborn. ‘I thought coach Mark Lamon did a nice job handling our pitcher tonight. Everything just fell into place and, defensively, the girls were solid. We are just playing very good softball right now.’
Lambert said the run has a lot to do with confidence.
‘I feel really good about where we are mentally and physically,’ Lambert said. ‘The confidence level is high because we are playing so strong. Right now, defensively, with McAfee in center, we are better in the field. McAfee made the running play; Bri made a great catch even though it needed circus music. The kids did a nice job.’
The Lady Cats improved to 26-5, a school record for wins, advancing to face Edgewood in the semi-state.