TERRE HAUTE —
When host Terre Haute South jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead over North Central in high school softball Thursday afternoon, it brought back three-week-old memories for both teams and their coaches.
And although the Braves were never seriously threatened in an evental 7-3 nonconference win, the fact that they couldn’t duplicate the 11-1, five-inning victory over the Thunderbirds during the Braves Bash was on the minds of both coaches afterward.
“[The Braves] beat us by the 10-run rule earlier this season,” said Erica Ketner-Arnold of North Central, “so I expected [the young Thunderbirds] to improve, and they did … we only have one full-time starter [infielder Rachael Croft] back from last year.”
“The fact that we played [the Thunderbirds] already, and then after the big [second] inning, we kind of lost our focus,” said South’s Steve Woerner. “We threw the ball around a little bit.”
North Central actually had the early lead Thursday, getting a run in the top of the first when Croft walked, took second on a wild pitch and came home on two grounders, Christian Chambers getting the RBI.
Then South’s offense took over, first with its speed and aggressiveness, then with its bats.
The Braves took the lead in the bottom of the first when Kelsey Marlow singled, stole second, took third on a Lexi Higgins bunt and scored by bolting home on a very short passed ball. With two out, Shelbie Scamihorn walked and scored all the way from first when Marissa Stout’s single was booted in center field.
South wasn’t as subtle in the bottom of the second.
Ashley Watkins smashed a single to right, and with one out Chambers — who elects not to wear a mask, like many pitchers do — was stung by back-to-back shots up the middle by Taylor Schilling and Marlow that loaded the bases. Higgins followed with an RBI single and Mackenzie McGregor cleared the bases with a three-run double that rolled to the center-field fence.
“South has a lot of sticks in their lineup,” Ketner-Arnold said after the game.
Chambers showed her mettle from there, however, retiring 14 of the last 16 South batters. The Braves’ only other run came in the fourth when Higgins — celebrating her 16th birthday — tripled and McGregor followed with a run-scoring single.
“We hit five home runs last weekend,” Woerner said, “and the effects of that are still lingering. We have a lot of sticks in our lineup, and we’re capable of scoring a lot of runs, but sometimes we get a little anxious and don’t hit good pitches. [Chambers] did a good job moving the ball around and keeping us off-balance.”
The Thunderbirds had hits in four of its last five innings, but rallied only in the top of the sixth — when the Braves helped them, as Woerner had noted earlier, with questionable throws.
Janessa Clouse and Chambers started the inning with singles, and Clouse went to third on a fly ball to right. When Laynee Street flied to center field, Clouse didn’t attempt to score — but on the throw home, pinch-runner Lexi Gilliam took off from first toward second, a play that had the effect of a double steal when Clouse scored on a failed attempt at Gilliam. Gilliam then took third when the throw home got away, and Gracey Caddell drove in North Central’s other run with a single off the glove of a diving Becca Latta at first base.
South’s defense had its good moments too, with shortstop Marlow showing off her throwing arm on a couple plays in the hole, right fielder Schilling saving a hit by throwing a batter out at first, and third baseman Scamihorn — the other Thursday birthday celebrant in South’s lineup — making a diving catch of a soft liner.