Motivated Raiders finish by looking forward

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Southridge’s Kendyl McKeough watched the Class 3A sectional final from the dugout Saturday at Jasper. The Raiders rapped 10 hits but fell behind early and lost 10-2 to Vincennes Lincoln. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — The positives are what make the outcome so frustrating for Southridge softball coach Doug Collins. They were bundled within Saturday’s 10-2 defeat to Vincennes Lincoln in the Class 3A softball sectional championship, like the fact the Raiders outhit the Alices 10-7 for the game, with Lincoln outgaining the Raiders by a single run over the last five innings at the Jasper High School Softball Complex.

The problems came in the first two frames, though, when Southridge surrendered seven runs with four Raider errors deepening the trouble. The Raiders also stranded five runners on base in the first three frames.

“They started jumping on us and we really didn’t come back on them with the bats,” said Raider sophomore second baseman Macie Marley. “I mean, if we would have came back like we did in the last few innings I think we would have got them.”

Saturday was also what Collins estimates is a first this year — his team being bull-rushed out of the gate and knocked back too far to recover.

“I’m not sure if it’s the big stage, but something was different today,” Collins said. “Our confidence level the first two innings just wasn’t what it usually is. We had a couple big strikeouts early for us that really put a damper on things.”

In the first, the Raiders put runners on the corners with one out but came away empty. Misty Merter and Peyton Nalley both singled to start the third, but were unable to advance any farther. Merter, a senior, finished 3-for-4, while Nalley ended her day with a pair of singles, a run scored and an RBI.

Along with Merter, Saturday’s setback ended the careers of Kendyl McKeough and Catie Fleming, whose pinch-hit walk to start the fifth sparked a rally that led to both of Southridge’s runs. McKeough finished 1-for-3 with a walk, but saw a potential run-scoring single taken away in the third by Alice second baseman Lauren McCrary’s diving grab.

“We were hitting well, we just didn’t have them tied together,” said sophomore Amanda Brewer, who picked up a pair of singles and drove in the final run for the Raiders. “We got our hits — they were good hits, but they just weren’t coming whenever we had girls on. We were getting them when we had nobody on.”

The hope, Brewer said, is Saturday serves as the first part of a two-act play that ends with the Raiders claiming their second ever sectional title. With such large sophomore and junior classes, both of which were featured heavily this season, Collins ends the season with large expectations for next year.

Southridge’s Misty Merter looked up to see she’d been called safe after sliding into second base. For more photos from the game, click here.

“A year of experience has got to make up the dent Kendyl and Misty are going to put into the whole situation,” Collins said. “They’ve got to play that much better, and I have no reason to believe they won’t. I fully believe we’ll come out with both guns blazing next year.”

First and foremost, Collins said, the message is the Raiders showed their aptitude. They reached the sectional final, where they flashed potential in spurts. Next, Collins said, comes fully executing: Don’t just put runners on base in six out of seven innings, but avoid stranding a total of 10 runners.

That also applies defensively. Eliminate the five errors that started or extended rallies for the Alices (16-14), and replicate plays such as Marley’s first-inning snag that nullified McCrary’s line drive before Marley doubled a runner off first base. Marley also dove to her left in the fourth to rob Kacy Cramer of a hit to start the inning.

“The message is, ‘Hey girls, the final game of the sectional — we outhit the team 10-7 and lost. OK, what do we have to work on?’ We definitely have to work on coming through when we have runners in scoring position,” Collins said. “That’s one, and two just making routine plays. We had I don’t know how many errors on plays you would have to consider routine balls.”

Brewer said, even with the various miscues, Saturday benefited the Raiders (11-14). Once the nerves receded after the first couple innings, Southridge held its own, which serves as an example of what’s possible for the bulk of Raiders returning next year.

“We know what we want now,” Brewer said. “Saying how we’re only sophomores with me and a lot of the girls in my grade, we have this mindset, so I feel like we’re going to come back next year ready to play and ready to win a sectional title.”

“It’s huge for us I think,” she continued. “It shows that we actually have a shot, really. A lot of us were sort of questioning it during the season, and once we came into the sectional tournament, we were like ‘Wow, we can actually do this.’”

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