Raiders advance to semis on walk-off hit

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Southridge's Loren Fleck, right, hugs Kolby Jones after winning Monday's softball sectional opener in Linton. Southridge defeated Mitchell 6-5 as freshman Myah Montgomery drove in Fleck, a fellow freshman, for the game's winning run to send the Raiders into tonight's semifinal matchup with South Knox.


LINTON — For the first six innings of Monday night’s sectional opening game between Southridge and Mitchell, freshman Myah Montgomery’s voice rang out as one of the loudest from the Raider dugout in support of her teammates.

Just a few innings later in her first plate appearance of the evening, it was Montgomery that sent the Raiders home as walk-off winners with an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning as Southridge defeated the Mitchell Bluejackets 6-5. With the victory, the Raiders advanced to the sectional semifinal tonight at 6 p.m. against South Knox.

Montgomery waited patiently for her opportunity and once it came, she was fully ready to take advantage.

“I was really nervous because I kind of just got thrown in there but I knew after the pitcher threw the first strike, I was going to get another one,” Montgomery said. “I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to strikeout’ so I just took deep a breath and hit it.”

While the Raiders made some mistakes during the game and were unable to take advantage of certain situations, when they absolutely needed to come through in the clutch the team was able to do just that.

Southridge head coach Scott Buening was ecstatic that the Raiders were able to come through with the seventh inning rally and keep their sectional championship hopes alive.

“Tonight epitomized everything we’ve tried to accomplish this year,” Buening said. “We want to build some confidence, trust in one another and our theme throughout the season has been ‘Believe in Raider Softball’. What we really mean by that is people playing their role and doing their job night in and night out, that’s what this team is all about.”

Mitchell scored the first run of the game in the top of the first inning as Emma Terrell drove in Gracie Haas with an RBI single for an early 1-0 lead. After neither team accomplished much in the second inning, the Bluejackets expanded their lead to 2-0 in the top of the third inning as Mattie O’Shields came around to score after a few Raider defensive errors.

Things started to come together for Southridge in the bottom of the third inning as Amanda Brewer and Macie Marley recorded back-to-back singles with two outs. After Kennedy Nalley was walked, Peyton Nalley also drew a free pass with the bases loaded to put the Raiders on the board.

After Lydia Genet shut down the Bluejackets in the top of the fourth, catcher Mikah Goeppner got a hold of one she liked and sent it deep over the left field wall to tie the game at 2-2.

“My first base coach was telling me ‘Go, go, go!’ And I was like, this one is most definitely over,” Goeppner said. “Coach (Buening) has always talked about believing in Raider softball and that’s just what we do.”

Mitchell wasn’t going to go away quietly, however. Josie Campbell gave the Bluejackets a 3-2 lead with a ringing RBI single to score O’Shields.

“Give Mitchell a lot of credit, they made a ton of defensive plays and continued to put pressure on us by answering back,” Buening said. “We were able to do a great job of damage control and not let two-run innings turn into five-run innings.”

Southridge's Rachel Trent bats during Monday's softball sectional opener in Linton. Trent had an RBI single in the decisive seventh inning that ended up being the game's winning run.

Once again, the Raiders bounced right back — Kennedy Nalley’s RBI double drove in Marley to tie things up 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth and then she came around to score on a throwing error to give Southridge a 4-3 lead.

This wouldn’t be the final time the lead flip-flopped. Mitchell tied things up again in the top of the sixth after Haas drove in Sierra Cox with an RBI single to make it 4-4.

After Kennedy Nalley had her second RBI double of the day in the bottom of the 6th inning that scored Kolby Jones and gave the Raiders a 5-4 lead, Southridge looked primed to win the game in the top of the seventh inning. After Terrell led the inning off with a single for Mitchell, Genet forced back-to-back outs via a flyout and a fielder’s choice. However, the Bluejackets tied it up once again after an error allowed Terrell to score from third base and make it 5-5.

While Goeppner lined out to start the seventh inning, senior Rachel Trent reached base with a single and was later replaced by freshman pinch runner Loren Fleck. With two outs, Montgomery drove in Fleck with an RBI single to end the game.

“We needed all of the tools and abilities this team has collectively in order to pull out the win tonight,” Buening said. “When you see kids that are selfless and put the team first, it’s just really impressive.”

Goeppner added: “We just need to always stay up — once our dugout got loud, that started to rattle their pitcher a bit.”

While the Raiders are glad to get the first victory out of the way, just one win isn’t the goal for the Southridge softball team. They’ll face the Spartans of South Knox tonight at 6 p.m. as they continue their hunt for a sectional championship — something that’s eluded them since 2010.

“We’re a team in regards trying to overcome our past, we’ve only won one sectional title in our school’s history,” Buening said. “Getting a win on a night like tonight where you’re trying to find a way as a program was huge.”

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