News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

May 1, 2014

North Central softball keeps rolling, beating second Terre Haute team

Thunderbirds knock off Braves by 12-7 score

TERRE HAUTE — Hitters were definitely ahead of the pitchers Thursday evening as Terre Haute South hosted North Central in nonconference high school softball.

With two teams entering the game with a combined 21-5 record, each of them starting a pitcher with an even better winning percentage — and with a howling wind and shivery temperatures seemingly the farthest thing from helpful to a batter’s swing — a snappy, 90-minute game with a final score of 1-0 or 2-1 wouldn’t have been surprising.

Instead the final was 12-7, North Central hanging on for its second win over a Terre Haute powerhouse in as many days.

The two teams combined for 25 hits, and it wasn’t just the sluggers in the middle of the batting orders doing the damage. North Central got two doubles, a grand-slam homer and seven RBI from its eighth and ninth hitters, and South’s No. 9 hitter belted the longest homer of the night.

It was that grand slam, a two-out difference-maker by Mia McCoskey in the top of the second, that created separation between the two teams and gave the visitors a 6-0 advantage.

The Braves also gave North Central four unearned runs in the top of the sixth, Anna Orsburn’s two-out, three-run double the key blow, and that created enough of a lead to make the bottom of the seventh — when the Braves loaded the bases and got the tying run to the on-deck circle — a little less nervous.

“We didn’t play well enough in the field to win,” coach Dwayne Stout of the Braves said afterward, that sixth inning probably still on his mind. “Too many misplays.

“That’s a good team over there,” he said, gesturing to the visitors’ dugout, “but we failed to make plays we usually do … when we score seven runs, we expect to win.”

North Central got on the board first in the Thunderbirds’ first at-bat, with a South error also helping that rally along. Winning pitcher Christian Chambers got the first of her four hits to drive in the second run.

Chambers’ one-out single in the third was followed by a hit by her batterymate, Sami Young. With two out, a hit batter kept the inning alive for McCoskey, who ripped a line drive that glanced off and over the top of the center-field fence.

Chambers had pitched out of a second-and-third, no-outs jam in the second inning, but any ideas of an easy win for her and her team went away in the bottom of the third.

A wind-blown popup for a hit started the inning, and Hollie Jones took advantage immediately with an opposite-field rocket to left-center for an RBI double. She scored on a wild pitch, Lexi Higgins got a single and stolen base, Mackenzie McGregor got a double — this time the wind held the ball in the park and caused it to drop in front of an outfielder who’d been racing for the fence — and McGregor scored on an error.

Chambers and Young drove in runs in the top of the fourth to give North Central an 8-4 lead, but a triple by Higgins and a sacrifice fly by Kelsey Marlow made it 8-5 in the bottom of the fifth.

A dropped fly ball and the failure to get a force out at the plate kept North Central’s sixth inning going before Orsburn — the ninth batter — hit an opposite-field bullet to the fence for the second time in as many innings.

“That’s whast makes us special,” North Central coach Erica Arnold said after the game. “One through nine [in the batting order] can hit; [McCoskey and Orsburn] aren’t your typical eight and nine hitters.”

Neither, apparently, is South’s Brittany Dalton. She cracked a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that threatened the soccer bleachers beyond the left-field fence, and she was on deck again in the seventh when the bases-loaded final out was made.

North Central still has to play West Vigo to win the Vigo County championship, but the Thunderbirds have a more important game today. They play at Clay City — ranked second in Class A — in a SouthWestern Indiana Athletic Conference headliner.

“Clay City is always a big, big game for us,” Arnold said. “It’s a conference game, and [the Eels] are alwasys good competitors.”

North Central, surprisingly, is not yet ranked even though its two losses have come against big-school powers. Arnold isn’t worried.

“Sometimes rankings can get in a team’s heads,” she reasoned. “We’re under the radar right now, with something to prove.”

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