Chargers bumble, but Patriots still stumble

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Heritage Hills’ Megan Ficker, center, struggled to watch as the Patriots couldn’t concoct a rally in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s Class 3A softball sectional final at the Jasper High School Softball Complex. Despite eight errors by Pike Central, the Chargers bested Heritage Hills 10-4 to foil the Patriots’ bid for back-to-back sectional crowns. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — More than disappointment or sadness, shock seemed to permeate the Heritage Hills softball team Wednesday night.

Vying for its second consecutive sectional title, the Patriots seemed to play more flawlessly than their opponent, more consistently. None of that mattered.

Pike Central upended Heritage Hills 10-4 at the Jasper High School Softball Complex, pulling off what would appear to be an impossible task: committing eight errors and winning without having to sweat the late innings.

At one point, Pike Central (12-8) showed so much incompetence that Cadie DellaMorta scored on a play in the second inning when she didn’t hit the ball out of the infield.

It seemed like something out of a Little League game: The shortstop skipped a throw to the first baseman, whose toss back to the pitcher sailed high. Then when Pike Central’s third baseman tried to throw DellaMorta out at second base, the ball skipped into the outfield after nobody was prepared to catch the ball. By the time Pike Central relayed the ball back into the infield, DellaMorta had crossed the plate to give Heritage Hills (22-7) a 2-1 lead.

“We came out and they made those errors and we thought they were going to give us a little help,” Heritage Hills coach Joe Asbury said. “But everything they hit seemed to fall in. They hit it hard and even when they didn’t hit it hard, it still fell. It was just one of those nights.”

“We all had confidence, it’s just they hit the ball and it fell in holes,” Patriot senior first baseman Felicia Leibering added.

For the third consecutive night, Kaitlin Kralj (22-6) tossed a complete game. That was a factor, Asbury said, as she was forced to go the distance with backup hurler DellaMorta struggling with back problems for the last three or four weeks. Pike Central struck for five runs in the fourth inning, but before that, Kralj had allowed just two runs and 11 hits in 17 innings in the sectional.

“The draw really hurt us; we had to go with Kaitlin all three nights,” Asbury said.

“I think, emotionally and physically, that’s pretty tough to do.”

All four of Heritage Hills’ runs off Pike Central junior Stephanie Richardson (8-4) were unearned.

Hayli Scott led off the bottom of the first by reaching on an error, and pinch-runner Paige Priest scored on a single from Kralj. In the fourth, Abby Fischer and Ashley Bauer each crossed the plate as Pike Central committed three errors in the frame; Scott also added an RBI single. Of the Chargers’ eight errors, five came within the first three innings and the rest occurred in the fourth.

The game settled down a little bit after that. Richardson retired 11 of the last 12 Patriots as Heritage Hills didn’t advance a runner past first base after the fourth inning. Pike Central added a run in the sixth and three more in the seventh, including a score that counted after obstruction was called on Heritage Hills after throwing out a runner at the plate.

In addition to Kralj and Scott’s base-scoring singles, Kayala Hoppenjans ripped a double and Megan Ficker contributed a single for the Patriots’ other two hits.

Heritage Hills graduates nine seniors: Bauer, DellaMorta, Ficker, Fischer, Leibering, Scott, Whitney Ebelhar, Savannah Mundy and Kaylee Zoglman. Over the last four years, the Patriots finished 84-31-1, including last year’s sectional championship.

“We had the best energy,” Leibering said. “I love all those girls in the dugout. They always, no matter what you do, they always pick you up.”

“I’m proud of our kids, Heritage Hills was represented with a lot of class and I wouldn’t trade our kids, win or lose,” Asbury added.

“They’ve got a lot to be proud of. We’ve won a whole heck of a lot of games and we’ve had a whole lot of fun and learned a lot about ourselves and how to work with a team. So it’s been a great experience for everybody.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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