For the first four innings of the Class 2A Forest Park Semistate high school softball game between South Vermillion and Tecumseh, a flip of the coin may have been the best way to determine which team was going to come out on top Saturday.
Both teams matched each other frame by frame with single runs being scored by the Braves, tied for the top spot in the final Class 2A state rankings, and Wildcats in the first inning before the starting pitchers threw up three straight innings worth of zeros.
However, during the three-inning scoreless stretch of the afternoon, there was plenty of traffic on the base paths, but neither was able to produce a run.
That changed in the top of the fifth inning when Tecumseh loaded the bases with no outs, enabling it to produce five runs that were added on to in each of the sixth and seventh, ending South Vermillion’s magical run with a 9-4 loss.
“The first few innings was a nice dogfight. It could’ve gone either way. But one inning, as it turned out, they capitalized on opportunities and we didn’t recover from that,” South Vermillion coach Boomer Grange said. “Hats off to them for their continual pressure.”
The way the game began, for both teams, as well as the weather conditions — hot with a breeze blowing out toward straightaway center field — it looked like it a slugfest may determine which team would have a chance to play for a trip to state later Saturday evening.
Tecumseh opened the first by getting a runner into scoring position with two outs, which came around to score on cleanup hitter Reagan Hight’s RBI double off the right-field wall.
But South Vermillion starter Regan Godfrey escaped the jam, getting her team back into the dugout where it produced a run of its own when Hannah Grange, who went 3 for 4 with two runs batted in, laced a run-scoring double down the left-field line.
That was the final run either would score for quite a while. And it turned out to be the final run the Wildcats would get until their final at-bat as Tecumseh freshman starter Ashtyn Green was able to get out harm’s way several innings in a row.
South Vermillion put multiple runners on base in each of the third, fifth and sixth innings, but came away empty-handed in each trip to the plate, a feat coach Grange credited to Green.
“We had some opportunities,” he said. “In big games, well, most games, those who have faith in one another, execute and take advantage of opportunities, their teams typically come out on top.”
Her ability to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard allowed the Braves’ offense to strand several runners from the second through the fourth innings without much consequence, as Godfrey, like Green, got herself out of trouble multiple times.
At some point, with all of the runners reaching base, a run would have to score, right?
Unfortunately for South Vermillion, that question was answered in the fifth when Tecumseh batted through its lineup, producing five runs on three hits with a pair of two-run hits coming from Hight and Green to open up the scoring.
Those runs hurt, but the insurance runs the Braves scored — three — in the sixth and seventh were the ones that ended up being the hardest to swallow.
Why? Well, despite coming into the bottom of the seventh trailing 9-1, South Vermillion did not fold up shop for the two-plus-hour drive back to Clinton.
Instead, the Wildcats made it quite interesting, sending nine batters to the plate, scoring three runs on three hits and causing some panic to move its way toward the first-base dugout. From being down eight runs with three outs to go, South Vermillion all of a sudden had the potential tying run waiting in the on-deck circle in Isabela Inman, who pinch hit to lead off the frame.
She almost got up for a second time, but BreAnn Smith’s liner was snared by Tecumseh first baseman Chloe Holder to end the game.
“That’s who they are. They’re not going to quit, they’re not going to settle,” Boomer Grange said.
The loss puts a cap on a historic run for the Wildcats, who reached the semistate round for the first time in program history. And while coach Grange said he was proud of his group for winning its first regional title and getting a step away from a state championship appearance, he noted the culture his senior class laid down was the reason for what was accomplished in 2019 and what will be built upon going forward.
“This is the start. This isn’t the finish. This is the start of good things,” he emphasized.