News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 16, 2010

Patriots fall 3-1 to Hamilton Southeastern in 4A softball title game

INDIANAPOLIS — No, the Terre Haute North vs. Hamilton Southeastern softball game at Ben Davis High School will not end later than the World Cup soccer tournament.

That seemed possible after the two high school teams played a half inning Saturday night when inclement weather postponed the contest and they returned to the same field Monday night to play into the bottom of the fourth inning before heavy rain struck again.

Scheduled to resume late Tuesday afternoon, the teams drove to Indianapolis again and finally finished all seven innings. The ending wasn’t good for Patriots fans as Hamilton Southeastern tallied twice in the top of the fifth and held on to win 3-1, claiming the Class 4A state championship.

When action picked up where it left off Monday — with the score tied 1-1 and North batting with one out and a runner on second base — Marlee Yeager singled to advance pinch-runner Chanli Mundy to third before HSE pitcher Taylor Rager struck out one batter and coaxed a flyball to center field for the third out.

In other words, there was no further damage after Kelsey Coffey had doubled in Danielle Ketner earlier in the inning Monday.

Then in the top of the fifth, Jenna Abraham led off with a walk, Caitlin Laughlin sac-bunted her to second and Rager doubled down the left-field line to plate Abraham with the go-ahead run. One out later, pinch-runner Kelsey Cornila advanced to third on a failed pick-off attempt by the North catcher and Cornila later came home on a a single to center by Alyssa Buchanan to increase the Royals’ margin to 3-1.

“Last night, when the rains came, we had a couple hits in a row and scored a run and the momentum was starting to shift … and then it stopped [because of the postponement],” North coach Jack Kirchner assessed.

“We come back today and we get two girls on, but we don’t get the one-out hit or the two-out hit to score. They come up the next inning … and my hats are off to them. They had, like, 11 hits [for the game]. I think they played good ball. No disrespect [to Hamilton Southeastern], but we just didn’t hit.”

After Hamilton Southeastern’s two-run fifth, the Patriots had three more innings to tie the score or take the lead. But they went down one-two-three in the fifth and sixth — often on the first or second pitch to the batter — before bringing the potential tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh.

With one out, pinch-hitter Allie McKinney walked on four pitches. But the left-handed Rager, a senior, got the final two batters on a strikeout and a groundout to second to stamp an exclamation point on Hamilton Southeastern’s second 4A state title in softball in the last four years.

“They just got those clutch hits … and we didn’t get those timely hits that we normally get,” Ketner acknowledged.

“They were chasing some pitches [late in the game],” HSE coach David Cook said of North’s batters. “We went up [in the strike zone] a little bit today … and we changed our pitching strategy a little bit and we had Taylor throwing some balls up. I think that contributed to the pop-ups there. They chased a little bit, but I think when we scored the two runs, it took a little of the momentum from them. But they swing. They swing the bats. They’re very, very aggressive. They’re aggressive playing defense. They’re a quality team. They were here for a reason.”

Abraham, a senior right fielder, was named the 2010 Mental Attitude Award winner afterward.

Then North’s players, coaches, managers, athletic trainers and administrators received state runner-up medals while lined up near third base. Also, the school picked up a nice-looking plaque shaped like the state of Indiana to proudly display soon.

“Not everybody gets this far,” Kirchner noted. “We were proud to be here. Sure, we wanted the big trophy. But we did a fine job. I’m proud of ’em.”

So did the multiple weather delays, which stretched one game over four days, affect the Patriots’ performance?

“I don’t think so,” North first baseman Paige Collins replied. “I just think we got kinda nervous.

“When they called it [Monday night], we had to start all over again. I think we could have scored a couple more runs [Monday] and we couldn’t make that happen [Tuesday].”

“I feel if we had played all in one day, it would have been a different game,” North right fielder Alisha Ludwig insisted. “But they hit the gaps and they’re a good-hitting team. We almost had ‘em. It was close.”

“No excuses,” said the Indiana State-bound Ketner, North’s senior shortstop. “You have to go with what you get.”

“It was definitely frustrating,” admitted North senior Bethany Sullivan, who’s heading to Indiana-Southeast next season. “We made that hour-and-15-minute drive every day [one way] to come down here and play, just to get rained out. It was frustrating. But we tried to stay together.”

“It was a tough predicament for both teams,” Cook said from the Royals’ perspective. “We’ve probably got a little shorter drive than them… Also, remember we gave up a run in the pouring-down rain [Monday night], so rain might have played in their favor a little bit.”

Reflecting on a 27-9 season that neutral observers probably didn’t expect, Kirchner and the North players realized they’ll carry plenty of fond memories from 2010 into the future.

“It’s been an awesome season — to finish up my senior year like this,” Ketner proclaimed. “No one would have expected [before or during the regular season] that we’d make it this far. But we made it.”

“It was an awesome end to the season,” Sullivan added. “It doesn’t get any better than this. We were here and, no matter what happened, we were the only ones [in North history] who ever made it here. So it was definitely the best season I’ve ever had.”

“When we start out [a season], we always want to win the sectional, we want to beat [Terre Haute] South, our rival, we want to win the Big Four [Classic],” Kirchner explained. “Then after we win the sectional, we say ‘we take whatever we can get.’ This year, we got on a roll. At any time, this team is capable of beating anybody… We thought we could win it all.”

Looking ahead to 2011, the Patriots won’t have Ketner and Sullivan, but Kirchner pointed out that seven freshmen were on the varsity roster in 2010. So the cupboard won’t be bare.

“We have really good juniors right now and since we only have two seniors, we’ll have quite a few juniors coming up [to see more playing time],” Collins mentioned.

“Two players don’t make a team,” Ludwig added. “We’ll miss them, but we want to come back [to Indianapolis]. We know we can win this. You’ll see us back here.”

“[Not having Ketner and Sullivan] is going to be a big void to fill,” Kirchner admitted. “We’ve got some young kids coming in, but I don’t think we’ll ever replace either one of those girls.”

Still, Kirchner said he’s looking forward to the next few years.

“I think we’ve got a good program going here and we’re real happy,” he noted.

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