Everyone knows Stephanie Fougerousse can pitch and hit a softball, but not everyone knows she can flash some leather as well.
Fougerousse’s completion of a key defensive play changed the momentum of a tight game, keeping Linton ahead with a slim 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Soon after, Linton’s relentless offense began to gain traction and — combined with Fougerousse’s shutout pitching — the Class 2A No. 1-ranked and still unbeaten Miners proceeded to punish Bloomfield 12-0 in the South Knox Sectional championship game Friday.
This was the completion of a game which started Thursday. Linton led 1-0 in the bottom of the third inning when the game was halted due to lightning, then heavy rain. It was the second time in the sectional the Miners won a suspended game.
“This is special, the first time Linton’s won back-to-back sectionals,” Linton coach Jill Flater said. “So they made history tonight.”
“It’s always nice to win a sectional,” Fougerousse noted. “It’s even better, I think, if you’re expected to win and you actually follow through on that. Upsets are never fun. We came in with that target on our back and we pushed through … big team effort.”
In the fourth inning on Friday, Bloomfield had a runner on first base with two outs when Paige Shirley doubled over the head of Linton center fielder Joie Gadberry. Gadberry tracked down the ball, fired a perfect relay to shortstop Sam Butt, who fired a strike to Fougerousse who tagged out the runner 10 feet in front of home plate.
That ended the inning. Linton remained ahead 1-0.
“I think a lot of that on my part was luck,” Fougerousse said. “Luckily Joie, my centerfielder, and Sam, my shortstop, they lined up perfectly. Just executed a perfect relay. I think that right there kind of set the tone for the game.”
“Defense made some outstanding plays tonight,” Flater praised her team’s errorless performance. “That play from Joie Gadberry in center field, hitting the cutoff and getting the runner at home — I think that was a momentum booster.
“The next inning we started scoring some runs, and I think that’s why. [Bloomfield] had the momentum and we stole it from them.”
In the top of the fifth, Butt singled, then Fougerousse hit a screaming line drive over the left-field fence for a sudden 3-0 lead. Linton added a run in the sixth, then blew the game wide open with eight runs in the seventh inning.
In the seventh, Savannah Mason and Butt had run-scoring singles, then Fougerousse applied the coup de grace with a towering grand slam home run for a 10-0 lead. Darien Huffman added a RBI double and West a RBI single to complete the scoring.
Fougerousse had the two homers — her fifth and sixth of the season — and six RBIs, but five other Linton players had multiple hits. Mason had three hits, with Butt, Huffman, West and Hali Murray having two hits apiece.
In the circle, Fougerousse had fanned seven of the nine batters she faced on Thursday prior to the game being suspended. On Friday, she completed the seven-hit shutout to improve to 23-0 on the season, walking just two while striking out 10.
Fougerousse knows her team can score runs in bunches, but she is just as impressed with the defense behind her, giving her a boost of confidence when in the circle.
“With my defense, I’m never going to be too worried,” Fougerousse stated. “And that’s what’s fortunate about me as a pitcher. Any other pitcher can be shaken with runners on, but I’m not too worried. Because at any time my middle infielders Savannah and Sam can turn a double play. My corners charge with the best of them.”
Referring to the tag play at home, she mentioned, “That play there, the girl smacks one, hits the fence and we still get [the runner] out at home.”
Linton (23-0) will host the winner of tonight’s South Putnam vs. Cascade game in the Class 2A Linton regional at a time yet to be determined on Tuesday.