Jack Kirchner chose to give credit Monday night to Mooresville pitcher Taylor Chitwood, not to the Greg Maddux-size strike zone she seemed to enjoy.
But if there were no excuses forthcoming from Kirchner and his Terre Haute North High School softball team, it wouldn’t have been hard to find a spectator or two to come up with extenuating circumstances about the Patriots’ 4-1 loss at the Class 4A Martinsville Sectional.
North entered postseason play with a 19-3 record that was easily the best of the six teams at Martinsville, a field that includes defending state champion Plainfield.
“We were more fired up than ever,” second baseman Jessica Will said after the game. “Maybe it was in our heads too much that we had to win this game.”
That enthusiasm seemed to wane after a couple of called third strikes against the Patriots, however, and North’s usual offensive aggressiveness never made an appearance.
“It was different tonight,” said leadoff batter Katie Herrick, who now has four called third strikes for the season, half of them against Chitwood. “I thought we were going to win it ... we struggled at the plate, that was the main problem.”
North got a big boost in the first inning when Will started a double play — tagging one runner, throwing out the other — that got pitcher Allison Crick out of a jam that started with an infield hit and a Patriot error.
North couldn’t take advantage of Jazmine Allen’s two-out single in the bottom of the inning or Conner Nelson’s leadoff walk in the second — Crick lining deep to center to end the inning — and Mooresville broke through in the top of the third.
With two outs and Jackie Falin on base after her second hit of the game, Crick thought she’d slipped a called third strike past a Pioneer batter. It was ball four instead, and freshman cleanup hitter Anee Frechette-Houchins cracked a two-run double to the fence in left-center.
Falin’s leadoff single in the top of the fifth blossomed into another run on a double by Jeana Gregory, and it was still 3-0 when North came up in the bottom of the sixth.
Will led off the inning with her first career homer and Chitwood seemed momentarily rattled. But Allen’s deep drive to center was hauled in near the fence, and two runners were stranded after another walk to Nelson and a hit by Lorrie LaTourette.
“I’d flied out the first two times, so I had no intention of it going it,” Will said of her towering drive. “I was hoping that would get us fired up.”
Instead, the Pioneers retaliated with a double by Haley Chitwood, a bunt single — on which an obvious tag by first baseman Nelson was somehow missed — and a sacrifice fly by Frechette-Houchins. All North could muster in the bottom of the inning was a two-out single by Herrick.
“I was the last out [at the sectional] last year. I didn’t want to be that this year,” she said later.
“We didn’t hit,” Kirchner summarized. “Four hits? You’re not going to win a lot of games with that ... I think that’s our lowest total this year.
“Hats off to their pitcher. She threw a good ballgame.”
Asked if uncertainty had crept into the minds of his hitters, Kirchner said, “You’ve got to be able to make those adjustments.”
Mooresville returns to Martinsville tonight to face Plainfield, which erupted for a 12-1 win over Martinsville in Monday’s opener. Terre Haute South and Northview play the second semifinal game today.
Mooresville 4, TH North 1
Mooresville (AB-R-H-RBI) — Falin cf 4-2-3-0, H.Chitwood rf 2-1-1-0, Gregory c 3-1-2-1, Frechette-Houchins ss 3-0-1-3, T.Chitwood p 3-0-1-0, Shorter 2b 4-0-0-0, Wilson dp 2-0-1-0, Pryor 3b 0-0-0-0, Brock lf 2-0-0-0, Masters 1b 2-0-0-0. Totals 25-4-9-4.
Terre Haute North (AB-R-H-RBI) — Herrick 3b 4-0-1-0, Will 2b 4-1-1-1, Allen ss 3-0-1-0, McKinney dp 2-0-0-0, McClain cf 0-0-0-0, Nelson 1b 1-0-0-0, LaTourette lf 3-0-1-0, McBride c 2-0-0-0, Crick p-rf 2-0-0-0, Sykes ph 1-0-0-0, Ludwig rf-p 3-0-0-0. Totals 24-1-4-1.
Mooresville 002 010 1 — 4
Terre Haute North 000 001 0 — 1
E — Nelson, Allen. DP — THN 2. LOB — Mooresville 8, THN 7. 2B — Frechette-Houchins, Gregory, T.Chitwood, H.Chitwood. HR — Will (1). SB — Allen, Gregory, T.Chitwood. SH — H.Chitwood 2, Brock, Masters. SF — Frechette-Houchins.
Mooresville IP H R ER W K
T.Chitwood (W, 6-7) 7 4 1 1 4 7
Terre Haute North IP H R ER W K
Crick (L, 12-2) 4 2/3 7 3 3 1 0
Ludwig 2 1/3 2 1 1 1 1
WP — T.Chitwood. PB — McBride. HBP — by Ludwig (T.Chitwood). T — 1:37.
Martinsville 000 10 — 1 4 1
Plainfield 003 63 — 12 17 0
W — Laswell. L — Elliott. HR — M: Elliott. P: Laswell.
Next — Mooresville (10-13) and Plainfield (14-10) play at 5:30 p.m. today, followed by Terre Haute South and Northview. North finished 19-4, Martinsville 11-13.