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June 14, 2010

IHSAA Class 4A softball championship: Patriots’ game postponed after nearly 4 innings

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana High School Athletic Association seemed to get it right Monday night.

Although the Terre Haute North softball team and its many fans will be inconvenienced by yet another trip to Ben Davis for the Class 4A state championship — 5 p.m. today, everyone hopes — the postponement Monday at the midpoint of the title game against Hamilton Southeastern couldn’t be avoided.

Although the teams and fans departed the Ben Davis campus in near-sunshine after a brief but intense shower, the big stuff — to paraphrase Bill Murray in “Caddyshack” — was about to arrive. Within a half hour — far less time that it would have required to make the field playable again — a massive shower, propelled horizontally by massive gusts of wind, had added the coup de grace to another frustrating evening.

“Rain. rain, go away,” coach Jack Kirchner of the Patriots said in the dugout after the game’s second interruption was official.

When play resumes today, the score is tied 1-1 and North is threatening to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth. That fourth-inning rally is why Kirchner was wishing the rain had held off a few minutes longer.

“We had the momentum going, if we could have at least finished that inning,” he said.

North pitcher Bethany Sullivan held the Royals in check for three innings with some solid defensive help, particularly from a diving shoestring catch in right field by Alisha Ludwig in the top of the second.

Hamilton Southeastern finally broke through in the fourth although Sullivan, as she so often does, limited the damage to a single run despite giving up three hits and having her teammates commit two physical errors and one mental one behind her.

With one out, Alyssa Buchanan of the Royals singled and continued to second when the ball was booted in the outfield. A fielder’s choice, the batter reaching first base when the Patriot infielder looked to the wrong base before throwing to first, had runners at the corners.

Buchanan scored as Kelsey Coffey nailed the runner from first trying to steal second, but the inning still wasn’t over. Two more singles, the second compounded by a throwing error, put runners at second and third before Sullivan retired the side with no further damage.

Rain had started to fall during that inning and continued as the Patriots batted in the bottom half. Danielle Ketner opened with a single, making a great adjustment on a two-strike changeup to line the ball to center field, and Ketner reached second on a one-out wild pitch. Coffey then doubled to the center-field fence to drive in the tying run, but that was the last batter of the evening.

Marlee Yeager, who already has a single and a stolen base in the game, will be the batter when play resumes with one out and Coffey at second base.

Kirchner hopes his team has learned some things about the Royals that will pay off when the game’s last three-plus innings are played.

“They’ve got a couple good hitters,” the coach said, “and their pitcher [Taylor Rager] keeps the ball kind of low. We were swinging at that low pitch early, but we started to lay off it.”

Saturday’s ticket stubs, which have to be getting worn out by this time, will still be good for today’s play.

The Patriot crowd may have been slightly smaller Monday than it had been on Saturday, but it was still substantial and included hundreds of longtime softball boosters from the northern half of Vigo County and beyond.

It also included at least a few Riverton Parke fans, which is only fair; the Patriots turned out in force Saturday morning to support the Panthers in their eventual Class A championship victory.

“It was good to have [the Patriots] there for our game [Saturday morning],” Panther pitcher Haley Chambers said Monday as she hoped for resumption of play. “We’re kind of like neighbors ... I’ve got some friends on the North team, so I just have to cheer them on; we want to see them bring home a state title too.”

The Patriots and Panthers found themselves in the same Indianapolis hotel on Friday night before the originally scheduled championship games.

“We said hi and they said hi, and they said they were coming to our game,” Chambers noted, and there were plenty of North players in the stands Saturday morning more than eight hours before the Patriots had been scheduled to play.

Whether any Panthers are available to return to Ben Davis is unknown — but the Patriots will be there.

“I can’t say enough about these kids. They’re ready to come back [to Ben Davis] already,” Kirchner said as the dugout emptied Monday. “They’ve been fighting all year, so that’s nothing new.”

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