Rallying Raiders staffed with options

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Southridge’s Kendyl Dearing fired the first four innings Monday against Northeast Dubois, and teammate Megan Stapleton handled the final three frames to earn the win in a 6-4 Raider victory at Huntingburg. The Jeeps led 3-0 before the Raiders scored two runs in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

HUNTINGBURG — Southridge’s pitchers must be starting to feel like they’re on some sort of reality dating show. Every game, at that.

Alli Bounds, Kendyl Dearing and Megan Stapleton are being watched. They’re being judged. They’re being compared against one another, right down to the last minute detail — who’s hitting their spots just right during warm-ups, who’s got that “it” factor of appearing ready to start in the circle.

Every game is an audition, as the Raiders come stocked with three pitchers who can be used at any time. Having options helped tow Southridge through Monday’s skirmish at Huntingburg against county rival Northeast Dubois, as Dearing absorbed the Jeeps’ initial wave before Stapleton fired three scoreless innings to preserve a 6-4 Raider triumph.

About the only thing missing from Southridge’s lavish new softball complex is extra real estate for the home team to warm up, since the Raiders arrive at each game not knowing who’ll throw that night.

So each pitcher grabs a catcher. They all three warm up together. And Raider coach Stephanie Fleck scrutinizes.

“Throw it up, mix it up,” Bounds calls the daily pitching triage.

“Depends on who’s ”˜on,’ who’s not, who’s pitching well and who’s hitting their spots,” Fleck said succinctly of determining who gets the nod. “Who’s ”˜on’ is going to play.”

Dearing was that girl Monday, and her first two innings unfolded smoothly before the Jeeps (2-9) dented the board via Katie Kluesner’s RBI single and Kendra Jacob’s hit that ushered home two more. Northeast Dubois scratched out another run the following frame, when Alexis Zehr coaxed a walk and Taryn Friedman later supplied a run-scoring knock.

Bounds

“We executed well. Every chance we had, we bunted runners around, got them into scoring position and got hits,” Jeep coach Larry Wineinger said. “Southridge hit the ball and made the plays that they needed to make. I can’t complain the way we played.

“We’re competitive, that’s the thing.”

Here’s the other thing, though: The Raiders (4-6) have their pick of plenty of different looks.

Dearing and Bounds are more built for power, while Stapleton can freeze trigger-happy hitters with her fluttering changeup. That arrangement worked handsomely against the Jeeps. Stapleton caught one batter flailing at an off-speed offering for Strike 3 in the sixth while sailing through the final three innings yielding just one hit.

“It’s seeming to work, just throw the batters off, give them different looks,” Bounds said.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” added Stapleton, who ripped an RBI double in the fifth for the go-ahead run. “You just have to be ready to come in, but I like the way (Coach has) been doing it lately. It gives us all the chance to (contribute) to the team for pitching.”

It’s a new arrangement the Raiders are trying over the last few weeks, since Bounds was accepting more of the pitching load early in the season before Fleck began integrating new arms.

Stapleton

Fleck said it may be the deepest staff she’s had — Southridge had three pitchers at its disposal in one of Fleck’s first seasons a few years back, but the Raiders didn’t integrate each with the regular variety that they’re trying now.

It’s also required the Raider veterans to buy into a new mode of operation.

As freshmen, Bounds and Dearing were tag-team pitchers of sorts who helped steer the Raiders to the program’s first sectional title. Stapleton, a sophomore, has gained more innings lately as Fleck said Bounds has struggled with her mechanics recently,  though the Raider coach expressed assurance Bounds will regain her form.

In the interim, Bounds’ glove works just fine. She stabbed a sharp line drive in the seventh inning Monday, when the Jeeps sent the go-ahead run to the plate. But the Raiders extinguished the threat with more glove work, ending the game when second baseman Robin Hanebutt smacked the tag on a baserunner and completed a double play to first.

The Jeeps, meanwhile, are feeling more settled by making moves of their own.

Wineinger recently renovated his infield, importing Friedman and Michelle Seitz from the outfield to patrol shortstop and third base, respectively. The Jeep coach said his team still yearns for the big hit at times — they stranded 10 runners in last week’s loss to Barr-Reeve — but the vectors remain largely promising, he said.

“If you’d take a look at the first three, four games of the season to the way we are now, we’re a whole different new team,” Wineinger said.

“We were still trying to find pieces to the puzzle, and now we’ve got people where they can play the positions. And our pitching’s coming around. We’re doing well.”

A similar assertion came from the Raiders, who calmly countered the Jeeps’ first strike by scoring two runs in each of their next three trips to the plate. Dearing plated runs on a double and a triple, Hanebutt offered a pair of RBI hits and Kayley Main scored the final Raider run by dashing from second to home on Brianna Lammers’ bunt.

“That was a huge thing today that, yes, we got down early, but they stayed with it and they kept hitting the ball and they stayed aggressive, and that’s what I asked them to do,” Fleck said. “They’re getting better each day and that’s what, from day one, we ask from these players. And they really have done that.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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