Raiders rally, win sectional in dramatic fashion

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
The Southridge Raiders hoist the sectional championship trophy in celebration of winning Thursday's Class 2A sectional title 5-4 in nine innings over Linton. The Raiders rallied twice to secure the program's second sectional title in school history — they won in dramatic fashion as Peyton Nalley's sacrifice fly scored Amanda Brewer for the game-winning run. For more photos from the championship, click here.


LINTON — It’s not a secret that the Southridge softball team has had its fair share of struggles throughout the program’s history. The Raiders had only ever recorded one sectional title in the program history (2010) and had fought through their fair share of sub-.500 seasons.

This season saw a lot of changes for the Southridge softball program. Scott Buening, who has led the Raider football program to back-to-back semistates as well as a state championship, took over the head coaching position while this year also marked the debut of several freshmen who were expected to make an immediate impact for the program.

After all of the trials and tribulations of the regular season, the Raiders found themselves hoisting the Class 2A Sectional 47 championship trophy after defeating the host Linton Miners 5-4 in nine innings in a game that had its fair share of twists and turns on Thursday evening.

“This game wasn’t just important to them this week, it didn’t just become important to them two weeks ago, this was important to them all the way back in December,” Buening said. “I’m so happy for this team, this program and these parents that have been so supportive of us. I can’t say enough, this is a tremendous night for Raider softball.”

The road to Southridge’s sectional glory wasn’t an easy one. After Myah Montgomery’s game-winning double pushed the Raiders (17-7) past Mitchell in the opening round, she pitched a complete game victory in the semifinal win against North Knox. They knew that Thursday night’s battle with the host Miners (15-12) wouldn’t be an easy one.

Linton jumped out to a 3-1 early and maintained that margin until the sixth inning. After senior left fielder Peyton Nalley walked with one out, freshman catcher Mikah Goeppner came up to the plate and launched one deep over the wall to tie things up at 3-3. The home run was her second of the postseason.

“I was just saying ‘base hit, base hit, base hit’,” Goeppner said. “We’ve just always believed in Raider softball.”

That was just the beginning of the craziness. After neither team did much in the seventh inning, both squads headed into extra innings with a desire to end the game as winners. Linton nearly broke the 3-3 tie in the 8th inning but Southridge freshman starting pitcher Myah Montgomery escaped the jam with a strikeout.

The ninth inning is when things escalated. After Sydney Lockhart kicked the inning off with a double and then reached third base on an overthrow, the Miners had three outs to try and score her. It only took them one out as senior pitcher Hannah Frady’s sacrifice fly gave the Miners a 4-3 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth inning.

After Montgomery struck out to begin the Raiders’ final at-bats, right fielder Megan Buechler reached base on a single that nearly was called out. After senior center fielder Amanda Brewer drew a walk to put runners on first and second, things got crazy when senior second baseman Macie Marley came to the plate. Early in the count, Frady’s pitch went wide and past the backstop which allowed Buechler to run home and score and tie the game.

After Marley was walked, the Miners decided to intentionally walk Kennedy Nalley who has become one of Southridge’s most dangerous hitters. This loaded the bases with Peyton Nalley coming to the plate. What was going through her mind at this moment?

“I thought as long as I can get my bat on the ball, I know Amanda (Brewer) can score,” Peyton Nalley said. “As soon as I hit it, I knew it was getting caught but I yelled to Amanda like ‘Come on, get in!”

Southridge's Amanda Brewer slides into home plate for the winning run during Thursday's Class 2A softball sectional championship in Linton. Even when things looked bleak, the Raiders continued to stay positive and use the motto they've used all year long — "Why not us?".  For more photos from the championship, click here.

Brewer scurried to the plate and stood up in shock once she realized that she just gave the Raiders their first softball sectional championship since 2010.

“My thought was just don’t throw the ball at home plate, that’s literally it,” Brewer said with a laugh. “Coach (Buening) always says we just chip away every time and that’s what we did.”

In order to clinch the title, the Raiders had to battle back from two different situations. It’s not the first time this team has had to overcome adversity — the Raiders fought back from several deficits during the regular season and climbed back after falling in an early hole against Mitchell in the sectional opener.

Even when things looked bleak, Southridge never doubted what would happen in the future. The team has remained patient and calm even when things aren’t going their way.

“Our saying all year has been ‘Why not us?’,” Peyton Nalley said. “So when we were down early, we said this happened on Monday so ‘Why not us?’. We got down a bit on ourselves but picked things up because we knew we could rally.”

Marley added: “I think back from where we started and we were are now, we’ve grown a lot as a team — we don’t break.”

With the victory, Southridge advanced to Tuesday’s regional where they’ll face Tecumseh in Lynnville. While the Braves defeated the Raiders 10-0 in five innings in this season’s earlier meeting, everyone is well aware that anything can happen in the postseason.

But what may be most important about Thursday night’s sectional victory is what it means to the future of the Southridge softball program and the school as a whole.

“I think it’s really nice for us seniors to go out with a bang,” said Marley.

Peyton Nalley added: “Our girls’ sports haven’t really been up there the past few years but we knew if we could turn things around this season, it would help turn our girls’ sports around in general. I really wanted this for that (reason).”

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