FLOYDS KNOBS —
Small ball, long ball, pitcher’s duels — it doesn’t matter how they win, the Floyd Central Highlanders’ softball team just keeps on rolling.
Out of Floyd Central’s nine hits in Tuesday’s 7-0 Class 4A regional championship win over visiting Castle, six were bunts Highlander runners legged out.
Finally, Taylor McClure delivered the big blow in the bottom of the sixth, when her double to left-center field took one bounce off the fence and plated Jensen Striegel and Gabbi Jenkins to make up the final margin.
“We knew we could use our speed against them, that if we could get a few runners on base that would put the pressure on them and possibly deflate them,” said Floyd Central coach Scott Castleberry, whose squad won their first regional championship since 2009 in turning back the 9-11 Knights. “That was our goal coming in.”
Floyd Central captured the lead in the bottom of the first when Jenkins led off the contest with an infield hit, stole second, and reached third following an groundout from Taylor Castleberry. After Regan Hadley’s liner to second base resulted in a putout at first, Jenkins scored to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
As it turned out, that’s all 25-4 Floyd Central needed.
Behind sophomore pitching star Kassie King, who improved to 4-0 in the postseason, Castle’s bats went silent.
King, who struck out eight and walked none in six innings of work before giving way to Caroline Cato and Morgan Harper in the top of the seventh, only really struggled in the top of the third, when she worked out of a one-out jam with runners on second and third.
After that point, she gave up a single to Cyporah Kirk to open the top of the fourth but retired the next nine Castle batters — and struck out the side in the top of the fifth — before hitting the bench.
“She’s super impressive,” Castleberry said of King, who is now 4-0 in the postseason. “I’ve coached Kassie since she was nine-years-old. No matter where she is, she’s always one of the best pitchers in the park, because of her demeanor. She focuses on one pitch at a time. When she struggles, all she does is focus on the next pitch — and she does a great job.”
It was 4-0 headed into the bottom of the sixth when Floyd Central added some more insurance. Clara Shean and Striegel reached base via bunt singles, and Jenkins walked to load the bases.
Castleberry grounded out to third to score Shean, and with one out, McClure’s double cleared the bases to virtually seal the win.
“I told her, that’s a Division I hit,” Castleberry said of McClure, who has signed to play with IUPUI next season as a catcher. “She’s been doing it for us all season.”
Now, the Highlanders have next weekend to look forward to. They’ll play New Castle — a 6-5 winner over Cathedral in its regional — at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Center Grove Semistate.
If they win that contest, they would play at 4 p.m. that afternoon against Bloomington South or Decatur Central for the chance to play in the state championship at Ben Davis on June 14.
“It’s what we’ve been working towards this whole season and for our whole career,” said first baseman Katelin Dreher, who is one of six Floyd Central seniors. “We’re looking forward for this opportunity and we’re going to keep working hard and try and keep winning.”
CLASS 4A REGIONAL
FLOYD CENTRAL 7, CASTLE 0
Castle 000 000 0—0 3 5
Floyd Central 102 013 x—7 9 0
W — Kassie King. L — Emma Raibley. 2B — Taylor McClure (FC).
Records — Castle 19-11, Floyd Central 25-4.