Lady Rebs give run at defending sectional champs
The sound of military choppers circling the ball fields were a welcome sign for the South Central softball team. The Lady Rebels were home.
After spending the entire first month of the high school softball season playing road games, the Lady Rebels finally chalked the lines on their field to host a contest.
Thursday’s result didn’t go the way of the Lady Rebels, but the score versus the defending Class A Sectional champs New Washington proved South Central is getting better. Backed by strong pitching by Whitney Morris, New Washington shut out South Central, 4-0, in Southern Athletic Conference play.
Playing in front of fans was a welcome for senior Samantha Turner.
‘Totally a different feeling today,’ she said. ‘Everyone could come out to the game. It’s nice.’
Despite being on the home dirt, the Lady Rebels had a tough time solving Morris. She registered strikeouts against the first 10 batters she faced, mowing through the South Central line-up.
‘We thought when we played Corydon that was the strongest pitcher we’ve seen, and we only had five strikeouts,’ South Central coach Israel Temple said. ‘This game, it seemed like we were a little slow, and (Morris) had some moving pitches. Our girls looked confused.’
It wasn’t until Oakley Taylor’s single in the fourth inning that South Central saw a runner reach.
Taylor made her way to third base with clean-up hitter Victoria Sallee battling Morris with two outs. Working to a full count with Sallee fouling off several pitches, Morris eventually won the battle via a strikeout.
The empty inning was an attempt to gain one of two runs back the Lady Mustangs put on the board in the top half of the third inning. In the frame, South Central pitcher Haley Shaffer made a diving stab to her right then gunned out Emily Burke from her knees for the second out of the inning.
Shaffer nearly one-upped that play with another when Ashley Johnson popped up a ball to the left of Shaffer. Charging the ball, Shaffer made a diving attempt, but the ball rolled off her glove. An error allowed Morris to advance to second.
‘You can’t complain about Haley’s effort,’ Temple said. ‘She made a dive and it rolls out of her glove.’
Taking advantage of the play, Morris helped her cause with a single to right, plating Johnson. After swiping second and third bases, Morris eventually scored on a wild pitch to give New Washington a 2-0 lead.
New Washington doubled its run output in the fifth inning off a South Central error. Kelsey Cochran led off with a single. After Shaffer struck out Burke, Johnson reached on an infield throwing error, allowing a run to score.
Morris added her second RBI of the game, lifting the ball to right for a sacrifice fly, giving the visitors a 4-0 lead.
‘Four unearned runs,’ Temple stated. ‘That has been the difference between us being a 4-5 or 5-4 team to being now a 2-7 team. We’re improving, but now they believe they can win sectional. They’ve seen the last sectional winner and they played with them. They just have to believe.’
South Central put runners on in the final three innings but weren’t able to break up the shutout.
In the fifth inning, Shaffer drew a two-out walk for the Lady Rebels. Courtesy runner Lela Board stole second but was left there when Morris induced a ground-out.
Defensively in the top of the sixth, the Lady Rebels snuffed out a New Washington squeeze attempt, with Shaffer throwing to catcher Turner for the out.
The Lady Rebels strung together back-to-back singles in the sixth inning. Taylor came up with her second hit, a shot to right. Samantha Tuner followed with a single of her own. Morris escaped the jam with a punch-out.
South Central’s Kelsey Eckart drew a walk in the final inning but wasn’t able to move beyond first.
Strikeouts were key in the game, with Morris fanning 16. Shaffer struck out seven.
‘The first game we struck out seven times, which was our high going in to this game,’ Temple said. ‘She struck out the first nine to top that. She has a nasty rise ball … We let the first strike go too many times. It’s not really who we are.’
‘We need to work on hitting a little more,’ Turner said. ‘Most pitchers throw it down the middle, but (Morris) really moved it.’
Temple lauded Shaffer’s effort in the circle. She allowed only one free pass, when she nicked a batter on the foot in the sixth.
‘When Haley throws the ball, she’s going to get comebackers,’ Temple said. ‘She hit 85 to 90 percent of her spots, which shows she has that big game in her.’
For South Central, the improvement is there heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.
‘I think we’ve improved a lot so far this year,’ Turner said. ‘We’ve become stronger in fielding, more stable. It isn’t as hectic when the ball is in play.’
South Central will return to the diamond on Saturday at the Silver Creek Invitational. The home SAC contest against Lanesville has been rescheduled for Friday, May 17.