Scoring a run an inning brings about a high probability of placing a softball team in the victory column. Tacking on a three-spot in the sixth inning as insurance also helps the probability factor for winning.
North Central did the former in the game’s first four innings, assuming a 4-0 lead, and the latter in the sixth inning to apply the coup de grace.
Toss a complete-game, four-hitter by pitcher Ashli Scott into the formula — which probably should have been a shutout if the base umpire was paying closer attention — and North Central topped visiting Loogootee 7-1 in their Class A regional championship game on Tuesday.
“That doesn’t happen very often … yeah, we were impressed with that,” North Central coach Lela Earley observed of her team’s penchant to score a run an inning.
North Central pounded out 15 hits overall, getting hits in every inning and multiple hits in all but the fifth inning, the only inning the Thunderbirds failed to score.
“We had 15 hits and that definitely helped our defense and our pitching,” Earley said. “[I’m] impressed with the way we hit the ball, and when Loogootee did put the ball in play, we made the all the routine defensive plays.”
In the first inning (1-0), NC got its tally after two outs. Megan Stone tripled to deep left field, scoring on an RBI-single by Alainey Thompson.
In the second inning (2-0), NC scored again after two outs. Eighth-place batter Angela Garrett doubled, scoring on back-to-back singles by Nicole Swank and Maria Drake.
NC took advantage of shaky defense by the Lions in the first two innings — a pair of poor relay throws from the outfield in the first, and a pair of throwing errors by their catcher in the second.
“We preach to the girls that we have to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes,” Earley mentioned. “When they commit errors, we have to go with the momentum swing and use it to our advantage.”
In the third inning (3-0), NC mixed things up a bit by scoring with nobody out. Scott led off with a walk, stole second, reached third on a throwing error by the catcher, then scored on a RBI-single by Stone.
In the fourth (4-0), NC went back to scoring with two outs. Consecutive singles by Drake, Scott and Stone plated their lone tally.
The Thunderbirds failed to score in the fifth inning, despite a lead-off single by Thompson. But in the sixth, NC scored three runs with one out.
Singles by Swank, Drake and Scott accounted for NC’s fifth run. Drake was thrown out attempting to steal third for the second out, but Stone followed with a booming two-run home run over the center field fence — her sixth of the season — which landed loudly in the bed of a NC fan’s pickup truck.
Loogootee’s only run came in the fifth inning. Scott walked her pitching counterpart Rebecca Craney, advancing to third after a wild pitch and a tap out Scott. With one out, Allyson Arvin hit a shallow fly ball to left field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Craney.
It appeared Craney got a running start off third base prior to the catch and NC appealed the play by tagging third base. However, after a conference of the two umpires, they ruled the run had indeed scored.
North Central was led offensively by Stone, going 4 for 4 with a triple, home run and four RBIs. Drake was 3 for 4 with a RBI, Scott was 2 for 3 with a RBI and Thompson was 2 for 4 with a RBI. Swank, the ninth-place batter, was 2 for 3. Craney, the Lions’ pitcher, failed to record a strike out.
Scott only allowed two hits out of the infield, in the sixth and seventh innings. The other two hits were by the Lions’ first two hitters of the game, a swinging bunt and a single — by rule — on fielder’s interference. The junior walked two and fanned nine Loogootee batters.
“Ashley threw a great game,” Earley stated. “She really, as the game went on, I believe she threw better. We had some runs on the board, her defense was playing [well] behind her. I think that helped … she was a little more comfortable out there.”
NC’s defense committed just one error, coming with two outs in the seventh inning. They also flashed leather on two other occasions, a backhand stab of a line drive by first-baseman Garrett and a running catch by right-fielder Tori Leturgez.
North Central (18-6) will face Tecumseh (20-11), an 11-1 five-inning winner over Springs Valley, in the Class A North Daviess semistate at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
North Central 7, Loogootee 1
Loogootee ab r h bi N.Central ab r h bi
Ritchey ss 3 0 1 0 Drake cf 4 1 3 1
Clark lf 3 0 1 0 Scott p 3 2 2 1
Truelove c 2 0 1 0 Stone ss 4 2 4 4
Padgett cf 3 0 0 0 Thompson c 4 0 2 1
Walker rf 3 0 0 0 Crooks 3b 3 0 1 0
Craney p 2 1 0 0 Brown 2b 3 0 0 0
Wagler 3b 3 0 1 0 Jacobs lf 3 0 0 0
Arvin dp 1 0 0 1 Garrett 1b 3 1 1 0
Beasley 1b 0 0 0 0 Swank dp 3 0 2 0
Dant 2b 2 0 0 0 Leturgez rf,pr 0 1 0 0
Totals 22 1 4 1 Totals 30 7 15 7
Loogootee 000 010 0 — 1
North Central 111 103 x — 7
E — Clark, Truelove 2, Drake. LOB — Loogootee 3, North Central 6. 2B — Garrett. 3B — Stone. HR — Stone (6). SF — Arvin. SB — Scott. CS — Wagler, Drake.
IP H R ER BB SO
Craney (L) 6 15 7 6 1 0
Scott (W, 8-4) 7 4 1 1 2 9
WP — Scott. T — 1:29
Next —North Central (18-6) will play Tecumseh (20-11) in the Class A North Daviess semistate at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Loogootee (18-8) concluded its season.