Henryville High School may still be undergoing non-stop repairs in the wake of the March 2 tornadoes that flattened large portions of the schools, but the school’s athletic fields are still playable.
The Henryville baseball and softball teams made the most of the opportunity to play on their home fields for the first time this season. The softball team edged New Washington in a tight 5-4 affair, while the baseball team put an end to a season-opening four-game losing streak with a 10-1 victory over Crothersville on Friday.
Henryville pitcher Natalie Basham blasted a game-deciding, three-run homer in the home fifth inning to put the game out of reach. But Sarah Richey deserves at least as much credit for her work behind the plate in the Henryville softball team’s 5-4 win over Southern Athletic Conference-rival New Washington.
Richey shot down three Mustang base-stealing attempts and completed a critical play at the plate on a New Washington squeeze attempt in the sixth inning.
“Sarah is the heart and soul of our team,” Henryville softball coach Jenny Schroeder said. “She does such a good job back there that it goes unnoticed a lot of the time, because she makes plays and she makes them look easy. The plays she’s making aren’t easy.”
“She’s a special catcher. She’ll pick up all the signs,” New Washington coach Tim Sexton said. “She’s always looking so she knows the signs. She’s a smart ballplayer. You can’t get nothing past her.”
Richey’s play probably took at least two runs off the board.
After Henryville built a 2-0 lead in the home first, New Washington came roaring right back into the contest in the next frame when Lindsey Mudd launched a double down the third-base line. Mudd came home when she attempted to steal third and no one was there to gather in Richey’s throw.
However, New Washington’s Kaira Doherty wasn’t as lucky when she tried to take second after being issued a walk. The next batter, Coari Robertson, smashed a triple to right-center that would have put Doherty across with ease, and scored on a single by Whitney Leezer.
The game remained knotted at 2-2 until the bottom of the fifth inning. Henryville’s Erin Hairston slapped a slow roller and beat New Washington pitcher Whitney Morris’ throw to first base and headed to second on a fielding error. An out later, Richey worked her way back from behind to draw a walk.
That’s when Basham strode to the plate.
On the first pitch of the at-bat — Morris’ last of the game — Basham bashed the ball over the left-field fence to give Henryville a 5-2 lead.
“Natalie’s a senior now. We expect her to come through,” Schroeder said. “She’s doing a good job in the circle. She’s not somebody that’s going to come out and get 13 strikeouts a game, and we know that going in. She helps herself out by doing her job in the circle. It helps when our defense comes through for her, which they’ve done the past week. But then she helps herself out batting-wise, too.”
New Washington lost another potential run on another great play by Richey in the sixth. With Kaira Doherty at third base and Robertson at second, Leezer attempted to squeeze home a run. But Basham pounced on the ball and got it back to Richey, whose tag narrowly stopped Doherty from scoring.
“(New Washington is) aggressive on the basepaths and we remembered that,” Schroeder said. “Luckily, our catcher and our fielders were kind of ready for that and they executed. We executed when they attempted hit-and-run, bunt-and-run or a squeeze play. We executed almost every time. When you execute the things that you practice on a daily basis, when you get them in the game and you execute them well, this is the result.”
New Washington scattered 11 hits in the contest, stranding seven baserunners.
“We just couldn’t get bunts down,” Sexton said. “We were supposed to be bunting runs, and just couldn’t capitalize on it. But we gave them a couple runs in the first inning on the errors and just got behind, but we fought back and at least we fought back as a team.”
Henryville (4-1, 1-0 Southern Athletic Conference) will host Scottsburg on Monday. New Washington (1-4, 0-1) will host Clarksville on Monday.