CLINTON — The hundreds and hundreds of South Vermillion fans who surrounded the Wildcats’ high school softball field several rows deep may not have recognized their surroundings Tuesday night.
And unfortunately for the host team, those fans might not have recognized the Wildcats either.
Uncharacteristic errors led to eight unearned runs and hard-luck hitting made that impossible to overcome for South Vermillion, which fell 8-0 to Tri-West in Class 3A regional play.
Volunteers this week had given the South Vermillion field a decorative upgrade, not to mention having it pristine for play despite Monday’s weather.
“We’ve had tremendous support, not only from the community but from businesses,” coach Mike Andrew said after the game. “They planted trees, they put rock in … and I had four inches of rain at my house [Monday] night, so they were out early this morning getting [the field] ready to go.”
Maybe the biggest crowd ever for a South Vermillion softball game also had some future players in it, the coach added.
“They cancelled the local [softball] leagues so the little kids could come and watch,” Andrew added.
The Wildcats themselves had a promising beginning Tuesday as pitcher Taylor Andrew retired the first five Tri-West batters without incident. Then came a soft opposite-field single and a walk; Andrew got the next batter to tap weakly to the infield.
The ball was misplayed, allowing the first run to score, and the next batter — the ninth in the Bruins’ batting order — hit what was probably an outside waste pitch on an 0-and-2 count over the right-field fence. Suddenly the visitors were up 4-0.
South Vermillion had runners on base in every inning but the last one, but no one reached base in four of those six innings until two were out. Probably the best chance the home team had to get back in the game was in the bottom of the third, when Taylor Andrew and Daphne Dunegan singled after two out and Ariel Spivey’s line drive to center field was juggled and nearly dropped before the fielder regained control just in time.
Two more errors — and back-to-back doubles after the inning should have been over — enabled Tri-West to add four more runs in the top of the fourth.
It was an evening of total frustration for the Wildcats, who finished with as many hits as their visitors did.
“She’s been solid all year, one of our best defensive players,” coach Andrew said of his player who had two of the errors. “It just wasn’t everybody’s night … we didn’t hit the ball when we needed it — and hit the ball right at [the Bruins] when we did hit it.”
Andrew talked to his team for several minutes after the game.
“I told them how proud I was of them,” he said, “and I asked if this was going to motivate them to work harder in the offseason, come back stronger and better … we’re young. We have a couple of big shoes to fill, but we bring back [six] of nine [starters; seniors are Dunegan, Bailey Mack and Nicole Murphy].”
The coach left no doubt, however, that he would have liked another shot at the Bruins. “I’d like to play them best of three,” Andrew said.
Tri-West 8, South Vermillion 0
TRI-WEST (AB-R-H-RBI) — Settlemoir ss 4-0-1-1, Li.Meyer 1b 4-0-1-1, Cl.Johnson 3b 4-0-0-0, Clark lf 4-0-0-0, Baggett 2b 3-1-1-0, Heath c 3-2-2-0, Vandyke p 2-1-0-1, Miller cf 3-2-0-0, Rawlings dp 2-2-1-3, Sellers rf 0-0-0-0. Totals 29-8-6-6.
SOUTH VERMILLION (AB-R-H-RBI) — Vitaniemi cf 4-0-0-0, Mack ss 2-0-0-0, Kelsheimer ph 1-0-0-0, Koenig ph 1-0-0-0, Andrew p-lf 3-0-3-0, Johansen ph 1-0-0-0, Dunegan 3b-p 3-0-1-0, Spivey c 3-0-0-0, Hixon lf-3b 1-0-0-0, Garver pr 0-0-0-0, Cox 1b 2-0-0-0, Murphy rf 3-0-2-0, Link rf 0-0-0-0, Ca.Johnson 2b 2-0-0-0, A.Johnson ph 1-0-0-0. Totals 27-0-6-0.
Tri-West 040 400 0 — 8
South Vermillion 000 000 0 — 0
E — Mack 2, Spivey. DP — SV 1. LOB — TW 2, SV 9. 2B — Settlemoir, Li.Meyer. HR — Rawlings.
IP H R ER BB SO
Vandyke (W) 7 6 0 0 2 5
IP H R ER BB SO
Andrew (L) 3 1/3 3 8 0 2 1
Dunegan 3 2/3 3 0 0 0 3
WP — Andrew. PB — Heath. HBP — by Vandyke (Cox). T — 1:49.
Next — Tri-West (22-4) plays Saturday at the Class 3A Jasper Semistate. South Vermillion finished 16-9.