FLOYDS KNOBS —
For the third time in four years, the Floyd Central softball players are the queens of the Hoosier Hills Conference.
The host Highlanders captured another HHC Tournament championship on Friday night with a 3-1 victory over Class 4A No. 9 Jennings County. Floyd Central (17-4) won conference titles in 2011 and 2012 before coming up short last season.
“It means a lot to the kids,” Floyd Central coach Scott Castleberry said. “The players, especially the seniors, who have been a part of a winning tradition, it means a lot to them. The one thing we try to instill in this team is to play as one team.”
Highlander starter Morgan Harper had another solid performance on the mound. The senior right-hander pitched a complete game, giving up one earned run on eight hits. She walked one and hit one batter while recording no strikeouts.
Harper forced the Panthers to put the ball on the ground several times as they had only two fly outs.
“The two best pitches she had today were the screwball and the curve ball,” Castleberry said. “When we started the game, she was not real confident with her rise ball, so we had to go up and out a little bit on them. In the end, they were so anxious to get a hit because that team can get a lot of hits and I have a lot of respect for them. So we just put it on the outside part of the plate and made them lean on their toes. She gives you everything she’s got on every pitch.”
Floyd Central got its first run in the bottom of the second inning. After Katelin Dreher led off the game with a double, courtesy runner Paige Meyer moved to third base on a Clara Shean sacrifice. Floyd Central center fielder Jensen Striegel then reached base on an error and stole second.
After Jennings County starter Lisa McIntosh walked to load the bases, Meyer scored on a Taylor Castleberry fielder’s choice.
In the bottom of the third, Harper helped herself with a one-out double to left field. Dreher, the next batter, smacked her second double of the contest to plate Harper to put Floyd Central up 2-0.
Following three straight singles by Floyd Central and the Highlanders’ Gabbi Jenkins getting thrown out at home, there was a one-hour rain delay. Once play restarted, Castleberry came home from third on a sacrifice fly by Taylor McClure to increase the Highlanders’ advantage to 3-0.
“They had some timely hits. They hit the ball hard at times and had some timely hits,” Jennings County coach Kendall Wildey said. “Early on, we had seven baserunners and we didn’t get the timely hit. I give Morgan a lot of credit for that. She’s pitching us away a little bit and we were hitting it out on the end of the bat. We froze a couple of times on defense. That kind of surprised me early, too, and that kind of opened the door for them a little bit.”
The Panthers (19-5) scored their lone run in the top of the fifth. Kyndyl Olds led off the inning with a double down the left-field line. After Olds moved to third on a Dani Kirchner groundout, she came home on an RBI single by McIntosh.
But the Highlanders got out of the inning when Jenkins, who was playing shortstop, turned an unassisted double play. The Highlanders committed no errors.
Coach Castleberry was proud of the way his players played in the field, especially since it was only Floyd’s second game on its home diamond this season. Lots of rain in the early part of the season made the Highlanders’ home field unplayable, as they had to play some of their games at IU Southeast.
“Not having a field has limited us a little bit on outdoor practice, but the good thing is we’ve been working on fundamentals. And these guys are pretty solid in the fundamentals,” said Scott Castleberry, whose team had to practice inside at FCHS and on IU Southeast’s field.
Dreher and Taylor Castleberry each went 2-for-2. Jenkins and teammate Regan Hadley each went 2-for-3.
Olds was 3-for-4 and McIntosh went 2-for-4. In six innings of work, McIntosh allowed two earned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
It was the second time the Highlanders defeated Jennings County this season.
The HHC rivals could play for a third time in the Class 4A Jennings County Sectional semifinals on Wednesday, May 28 if both of them win their first-round games.
“We’re practically mirror images of each other, team-wise,” said Wildey, who is the former Jennings County boys’ basketball coach. “They’re conference champs, but I hope we get a chance against them in [less than] two weeks. We’ll flip the coin again and see what happens.”
Floyd Central will travel to Corydon Central on Wednesday.
HOOSIER HILLS CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
FLOYD CENTRAL 3, JENNINGS COUNTY 1
Jennings Co. 000 010 0—1 8 3
Floyd Central 011 100 x—3 9 0
W — Morgan Harper (7-1). L — Lisa McIntosh (14-4). 2B — Kyndyl Olds (JC), Harper (FC), Katelin Dreher 2 (FC).
Records — Floyd Central 17-4, Jennings County 19-5.