News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 2, 2010

North softball advances to semistate with 2-1 win over East Central

TERRE HAUTE — Asked how she felt pitching with one out and the bases loaded and her team leading East Central by one measly run in the top of the seventh inning, Terre Haute North’s Bethany Sullivan laughed before answering.

Rest assured, however, the senior right-hander didn’t find that situation amusing Tuesday night during the Class 4A regional championship game in front of an overflow crowd at the Patriots’ softball diamond.

With fans of both high schools sitting on the edge of their seats, Sullivan fanned Logan Woolums for the second out and coaxed Brittany Craig into grounding out to preserve a 2-1 victory that sends North to the softball semistate for the first time since the class system debuted in the late 1990s.

This was not Sullivan’s most dominating performance ever, but it was one of her most clutch.

“I was a little nervous [in the top of the seventh],” admitted Sullivan, who struck out three batters, walked three, allowed six singles and even signed a letter-of-intent afterward to play for Indiana University-Southeast next season. “But I just got really focused and I knew I had a good defense backing me up.”

One of those defensive stalwarts was shortstop Danielle Ketner, an Indiana State-bound senior who repeatedly made plays to keep East Central from reaching base or advancing.

“I felt good having a great pitcher out there,” Ketner said about the tense moments in the seventh. “Bethany is a smart pitcher and she knows what she’s doing.”

“Bethany’s not a strikeout pitcher,” North coach Jack Kirchner mentioned after getting drenched with water during the postgame celebration. “But she can bare down when she needs them. She moves the ball around a lot, hits the corners and she keeps ‘em off stride.”

North players, coaches and fans weren’t the only people impressed by Sullivan’s performance Tuesday.

“She’s not a thrower; she’s a pitcher … and that’s a compliment,” East Central coach John Roth assessed. “No, she’s not overpowering, but she’s a competitor and she knows how to pitch.”

The Patriots led 2-0 entering the top of the seventh, but Colleen Hornbach reached on an infield-bobble error to immediately get the East Central fans excited. One out later, Blaire Hornberger singled and Brittany Wilson followed with a grounder that skimmed off the glove of lunging third baseman Marlee Yeager for a single that plated Hornbach.

So Kirchner called for a conference on the mound, as North fans watched nervously, then Sullivan walked McKenzie Epling to load the bases and set the stage for the dramatic final two outs.

North had seized the early advantage by scoring single runs in the second and third innings.

With one out in the second, Yeager reached on an infield throwing error. A groundout moved her from second to third base. After Alexa Smith got plunked on the helmet by a Paige McQueen pitch, freshman Alisha Ludwig beat out an infield single to shortstop that enabled to Yeager to touch home.

In the third, Hailee Travioli and Ketner ripped singles to open the frame and Sullivan grounded into a fielder’s choice to take Travioli off the bases. The next batter, Kelsey Coffey, grounded a single between shortstop and third base to send Ketner racing home from second for a 2-0 lead.

The Patriots will take a 25-8 record into the Center Grove Semistate on Saturday. They’ll take on Greenfield-Central, which defeated Indianapolis Central 10-5 Tuesday to improve its mark to 26-7, in the semistate semifinal at 11 a.m. The winner will move on to the semistate championship game, which starts at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Kirchner recalled that his squad defeated Greenfield-Central 15-11 in the regular season.

“I love my team’s chances,” he said. “Anytime you’ve got Bethany out there, you’ve got an excellent chance to win.”

“We can go all the way,” proclaimed Sullivan, who smiled when she made that comment.

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