Rallying Raiders have all the right impulses

Photos By Matthew Busch/The Herald
Southridge players cheered as Raider assistant coach Kasi Stephens slid in the outfield grass after the Raiders rallied by Perry Central 6-4 in Tuesday’s Class 2A softball sectional at Bretzville. Kendyl Dearing and Megan Stapleton both cracked home runs to help nudge the Raiders into tonight’s semifinal matchup against North Posey at 8:30. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor
BRETZVILLE — The Southridge softball team is no dictatorship.

Dearing

It’s not that the Raiders run amuck as they please, but they’re afforded a good amount of freedom to do as they wish. The noose doesn’t get tightened, even in season-defining moments.
It could be just the reason the Raiders are still playing.

Southridge deleted Perry Central 6-4 in the Class 2A sectional Tuesday at Bretzville, as the Raiders rode a few impulses into a semifinal matchup with North Posey at 8:30 tonight. With no offense percolating for the first three innings, Alli Bounds created some feistiness on the basepaths to help hand the Raiders an early lead. And when Southridge faced a 2-1 deficit shortly later, Kendyl Dearing swapped sides of the plate and launched the Raiders back in command.

Dearing, a senior, had hit left-handed in every plate appearance this season. But sensing the need to reboot — Dearing popped out her first two times up and also pitched the first five innings and had just yielded just two runs — she dug into the batter’s box from the right side in the fifth.

Boom. Two-run home run. The alteration felt right, all right.

“It was a risk, but it was something coach trusted me in, and it was just a feeling to see how we could do with it. It worked out,” said Dearing, a natural right-hander who had batted from that side before making the lefty switch in high school.

Stapleton

“I came in and told coach I was going to try something different, because obviously we needed a little oomph. Everybody was telling me, ”˜Kendyl, you’ve got it,’ and that really helped out because I had just given up the run to help them take the lead. It was a big deal to have me step up to the plate, and I’m very happy that I did.”

Raider coach Stephanie Fleck wasn’t about to quibble with Dearing’s whim to hit righty. She encourages independent thought, requiring only that it’s done with conviction.

“I tell the girls, ”˜If you want to do something, it is your choice. Just take ownership of it,”’ Fleck said. “Whether it’s Kendyl, or whether it’s to bunt or whether it’s to hit left or right, you’ve got to make a choice and you’ve got to commit to that decision. I think that’s the best way to do it.”
Southridge (10-14) also lassoed an early lead using that maxim.

Southridge’s Alli Bounds dove into third with a stolen base ahead of the tag from Ashley Guillaume. After the steal, Bounds scored the first Raider run of the night on Kayley Main’s RBI single.

Bounds connected on a one-out hit and then stole second at Fleck’s order. Bounds then stole third — this time at her own volition, barely beating the throw on another headfirst dive into the bag.

Just like Dearing, Bounds took ownership of her own call — even if it rattled her coach.

“I was scared, that’s for sure,” Fleck later laughed about Bounds’ decision to swipe third.
Dirty work complete, Bounds could trot home when Kayley Main (3-for-3) hammered a two-out single down the left-field line. Grounders and popups characterized the bulk of the Raider offense until Dearing connected, but then Megan Stapleton made the power surge a trend by bashing a three-run shot in the sixth.

Stapleton’s rip — her first homer of the season — followed Dearing’s trajectory, both in landing at nearly the same spot beyond the left-field wall and in stun factor.

“I was just surprised. I haven’t been hitting the ball too well. I mean, I was just shocked,”

Stapleton said. “Coach (Kasi Stevens at first base) had to tell me that it went over. I didn’t know. I thought it was a popup when I first hit it. And she’s like, ”˜It’s a home run.’ I was like, ”˜Whoa.’”
The tag team of homers “was a little surprising, but I know they had it in them,” Fleck said.

“They’re good hitters. It just came at the right time.”

Especially since the Commodores staged another rally, scoring twice in the seventh inning and sending the tying run to the plate on a night when storms loitered nearby. But Kabrea Robling’s running grab in foul ground in left field sealed Southridge’s win, and about 10 minutes later, lightning and rain swept through Bretzville almost right as the Raiders were wrapping up their celebration and boarding the team bus.

That kept the slate of sectional games on schedule as the Raider focus shifted to a rematch with North Posey. The Vikings nicked the Raiders 1-0 in eight innings last month and prevailed by the same one-run count over Forest Park in Tuesday’s first game.

Viking pitcher Hailee Elderkin orchestrated both of those shutouts, and Southridge’s need for offense in the redux is apparent. Dearing will try to again do her part. But the big question lingered — hit righty again tonight?

“Oh, guarantee it,” she said, breaking into laughter.

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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