Raiders shutout Thunderbirds, advance to semisMay 22, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
VINCENNES — The Southridge softball team announced their presence in the postseason with a boom and not a whimper. The Raiders rode the arm of senior starter Boo Polley and feasted on 14 hits and nine stolen bases in a five-inning, shutout victory against the Eastern Greene Thunderbirds, 12-0.
Southridge coach Doug Collins said that the only difficulty he could see from his team on Monday evening was adjusting to the pitching speed of Eastern Greene senior starter Lynnly Kirkman.
“The pitching was a little slower than they’re used to,” said Collins. “I think we struggled a little bit in the beginning trying to figure out that speed.”
But other than that, Collins praised the girls’ attitude, intensity, and said he was “pretty happy” with the way they played.
Indeed, there was much to like coming from the Raiders’ dugout. Southridge (10-14) started the first inning with two of its first three batters, Polley and freshman shortstop Kennedy Nalley, drawing walks off of Kirkman. Polley also got the first steal of the game which she collected third base during Nalley’s at-bat.
Senior third baseman Bre Wilkey hit a single on a line out to right field to score Polley and Nalley. After Wilkey stole second base, junior left fielder Megan Buechler scored another single, and at the same time scored Wilkey to notch the team’s third and final run of the inning. The bottom of the first came and went with Polley retiring the first three hitters for the Thunderbirds.
Senior first baseman Morgan Stapleton lead off the second inning with a single, and Polley followed with another base hit to advance Stapleton to third base. Kennedy Nalley then stepped in the batter’s box and bumped a two-baser to drive in Stapleton and Polley.
Eastern Greene third baseman Jordan Shaw was able to reach first base to lead off the bottom of the second, and even stole second base. But the Thunderbirds struggles continued as all three batters behind Shaw, either from strike out or ground out, saw themselves fall back to the dugout and leave Shaw stranded at second base.
In fact both teams struggled offensively in the third inning. Stapleton, junior center fielder Amanda Brewer, and senior catcher Lauren Springer all had short stints in the batter’s box for Southridge. Freshman designated hitter Avi Kirkman, junior left fielder Shayden Flynn, and junior center fielder Chloe Kirkman didn’t fare any better either.
But fortunes changed for the Raiders in the fourth inning. Peyton Nalley connected for a single and Kennedy Nalley hit what should have been a double at most. However, a throwing error on the part of Eastern Greene helped Kennedy advance to third base and allowed Peyton to trot home for the 6-0 lead.
Wilkey soon followed up with another single to drive in the younger Nalley for run number seven. Later in the inning, freshman pinch hitter Madison Songer stepped into Brewer’s slot in the lineup and launched a sacrifice fly that brought in Wilkey. The Thunderbirds again came and went without much effect.
Southridge would finally sew the game up in the fifth inning, but not before a bit of late-game dramatics for the crowd in attendance. The Raiders scored their final four runs with a two-run RBI from Kennedy Nalley, an RBI single from senior pinch hitter Ragon Mitchell, and a passed-ball score from junior second baseman Macie Marley, who was pinch running for Mitchell.
The Thunderbirds needed three runs to keep the game going; after the first out, Flynn and Chloe Kirkman were able to get on the bases. Senior second baseman Taylor Rollins struck out, but sophomore shortstop Cali Prince was able to draw a walk and load the bases. Polley needed one more out, and she looked to her team for that final lift she needed to close the door on Eastern Greene’s comeback attempts.
“I kept thinking to myself we’re going to end this game right here and right now,” said Polley. “I could hear my coach, my AD (Brett Bardwell), and my team saying ‘You got this.’ So hearing them just drove me to get it done.”
And with that, Polley pitched a ball to Shaw, which went straight up in the air and landed in a Southridge glove to draw the evening’s proceedings to a close.
Polley finished five innings of work with four strikeouts while allowing four hits and four walks. Kennedy Nalley was three-for-four with four RBIs. Wilkey was three-for-four with three RBIs. Buechler and Mitchell each had an RBI.
Lynnly Kirkman finished with four strikeouts and allowed 12 runs on 14 hits. Shaw, Flynn, and Chloe Kirkman accounted for all four of the Thunderbirds hits.
There was a lot to like about this game for Collins, but the coach cautioned against getting too heady about a win like this. He wants his team to stay hungry and motivated, for resting on one’s laurels is the surest way to see yourself exit stage right during sectional.
“You can’t underestimate anybody and you can’t take today’s win and assume the same thing anytime,” he said. “That’s softball in southern Indiana, it’s all over the place.”
Southridge will move on to face the Mitchell Bluejackets (13-11) on Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. at South Knox. Mitchell defeated the host Spartans 12-0 to reach the sectional semifinal.
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