TERRE HAUTE —
For winning Class 3A sectional and regional championships in high school softball over the last week, West Vigo’s players and coaches received fire-truck rides through the streets of West Terre Haute as rewards for their accomplishments.
If the Vikings can plow through the loaded Brown County Semistate today and advance to the state finals June 14, they’ll deserve a lot more than that.
Anybody feel like donating a green limo for the weekend?
Seriously, West Vigo will have its hands full today. At about 1 p.m., coach Cherish Easton’s Vikings (23-9) will take on No. 2-ranked Lebanon (26-0) for the right to advance to the 7 o’clock semistate title game against the winner of the South Dearborn-Gibson Southern 11 a.m. matchup.
South Dearborn is ranked No. 1 and Gibson Southern No. 4 in the latest Class 3A state poll.
For now, however, Easton’s focus is on the Tigers of Lebanon.
“Their offense as a whole hits the ball real well,” she told the Tribune-Star. “They have a strong defense. And from what I see, their main pitcher has an ERA [earned-run average] under 1.00.”
But as someone once said (or should say), West Vigo ain’t exactly chopped liver.
Some of the Vikings’ leading offensive performers include Shelby Edington (.435 batting average, seven home runs, 35 runs batted in, 35 runs scored, 10 doubles), Baylee Waters (.443, 35 runs), Brittany Voils (.380, 24 RBIs), Kenzie Little (.376, one homer, 23 runs), Leah Morrison (.355, one homer, 33 runs, nine doubles), Kaitlyn Sollars (.351, 24 runs) and Charity Lane (.300, one homer, 20 RBIs).
Top pitchers are Morrison (15-4, 2.81 ERA, 50 strikeouts in 117 innings) and Hannah Harden (8-4, 3.97, 42 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings).
To get this far, West Vigo withstood a seventh-inning rally by defending Class 3A state champion Tri-West to win 4-3 in the Tri-West Regional on Tuesday night.
“The girls went into it knowing they could win and they proved it,” Easton said. “It wasn’t easy. When you get to that point in the season, there are no easy games. Every hit and every play count.”
Her players also enjoyed the moment — temporarily.
“It was really cool to beat the defending [state] champions,” emphasized Edington, a sophomore shortstop. “The last inning was close, but I had faith in us the entire time.”
“It was such a blast,” added Waters, a junior center fielder. “I knew we could pull through it. We’re like a family. We do everything together. We work as a team, which is great.”
Since then, they’ve been getting “celebrity treatment” all over West T.
In addition to the midnight fire-truck transportation after they returned from Tri-West, they received a minute-long standing ovation from other West Vigo athletes, relatives and friends during the school’s spring sports banquet Thursday night in the cafeteria.
“It’s been inspiring, phenomenal,” Easton said with a hint of emotion in her voice. “Very cool.”
“It was so amazing,” Waters admitted. “People are congratulating us. They’re letting us know how respected we are now. A lot more fans are supporting us.”
West Terre Haute citizens even lined the streets at midnight to show their appreciation.
“People were like shouting at us from the road,” Waters recalled. “It was pretty cool.”
“I’ve never had something like that,” Edington noted. “It was just so cool.”
Edington would like to take another wild ride this weekend. But for that to happen, the Vikings must overcome huge obstacles.
“I’m telling my players that we can accomplish anything as long as we keep our composure, play solid defense and put the ball in play and hit the holes,” Easton mentioned.
“All I know [about Lebanon] is their record, but records mean nothing,” Edington stressed. “It’s going to be cool to push ourselves against one of the best teams in the state.”
Asked if West Vigo should now be considered one of the best Class 3A teams in the state, Edington replied: “There’s no doubt that we are.”
“Our bats need to be on Saturday,” she continued. “We need to play errorless in the field. We need to play together and keep our composure.”
“We just have to stay humble and show everyone what we have to offer,” Waters said. “We’re just going to go out and give ’em ‘West Vigo’ and see what the outcome is.”
• • •
• Don’t forget the Eels — Another team getting accustomed to fire-truck rides is Clay City.
The Class A No. 3-ranked Eels (19-9) will tangle with West Washington (16-6) in the first game of the North Daviess Semistate at 11 a.m. today. Following that will be North Daviess (16-11) vs. No. 2 Rising Sun (23-6).
As is the case at Brown County, the North Daviess Semistate title contest is slated for 7 p.m.
While still respectful of his opponents, Clay City coach Jason Sinders likes his team’s chances of emerging triumphant from the semistate.
“We’ve got some pretty good pitching with [senior] Whitney Jeffers and [sophomore] Raven Allender,” he pointed out. “We’ve got some big hitters in [sophomore] Alyssa Yocom, [sophomore] Alexis Price, Allender and [junior] Maria Walton. We’ve got a great lineup from top to bottom. We’re pushing .400 for a team batting average.”
Sinders doesn’t know a lot about West Washington’s Senators, but he knows they’re formidable.
“They’ve got pretty good pitching,” he said. “They beat a pretty good Borden team in the regional to get to the semistate.”
If the favored teams win in the daytime today, a battle between the second- and third-ranked teams in the state would determine the semistate champion.
“Rising Sun was there [in the semistate] last year, so they’ve got experience,” Sinders assessed. “On paper, they’re probably the favorite. They’ve got some college-bound players. … But we’re going to play ‘til the whistle blows.”