By JON REITER
Both local softball teams remaining in the Class 4A Jeffersonville Sectional bowed out with semifinal losses on Tuesday night.
In the early game, the Bedford North Lawrence Stars scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to capture a 4-2 win over Floyd Central (21-6). They advanced to play in Thursday night’s sectional championship against Jennings County, who got a two-hit shutout and an RBI double from pitcher Lisa McIntosh in a 3-0 win over New Albany.
FLOYD CENTRAL-BEDFORD NORTH LAWRENCE
The Highlanders jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning, after a grounder and an error following a ground ball from Katelin Dreher that plated Gabbi Jenkins and Caroline Cato’s single scored Regan Hadley.
Both runs came with no outs, and as it turned out the Stars (16-13) were fortunate to not let things get out of hand early. A liner by Taylor Batliner was snared by Bedford third baseman Kaci Ikerd, who doubled up a leaning Dreher by stepping on third. Bedford pitcher Cassidy Morron then got Taylor McClure to fly out to left field to end the inning.
“We had our chances, but it was very important that we score a few more runs against a quality team like Bedford,” Floyd Central coach Scott Castleberry said. “For some reason, we weren’t able to get that done.”
It looked like the pitching of Cato might be enough to carry Floyd Central to the win. But after retiring 10 straight Bedford batters, the junior walked the Stars’ Emily Pritchett on four straight pitches to open the bottom of the sixth.
What Castleberry saw concerned him enough that he replaced Cato with Kassie King, but the move backfired. King gave up four runs on four hits over the remainder of her stint in that inning, with the big blow coming when Bedford’s Mackenzie Silvers delivered a three-run double off the left-center field fence that notched three RBIs.
Cato came back to finish up the inning with only one out.
“That decision was based on past experience,” Castleberry said. “We had lost a couple of games this season where we left her out there and let her get a little bit too tired, so we didn’t want that to happen again. I told her that we probably would need her to come back. I just wanted her to come back with the lead.”
After Jenkins and Hadley opened the bottom of the seventh with singles, Silvers, in relief of Morron, then retired the next three Floyd Central batters to close the contest.
JENNINGS COUNTY-NEW ALBANY
McIntosh, a junior hurler, did everything but re-stripe the softball field following the game in the win over New Albany. Even Bulldog coach Steve Belden admitted he was impressed.
“She’s a heck of a player,” he said of McIntosh.
The right-hander struck out eight New Albany batters and never allowed a runner past second base.
New Albany (19-7) managed to get a pretty good outing out of junior pitcher Hannan Morton, who gave up three runs — only one through the first six innings — but it wasn’t enough for the win.
Morton cruised through the middle innings, retiring 10 batters in a row at one point. But she gave up an RBI single to Hannah Castor and an RBI double to Dani Kirchner in the bottom of the sixth as Jennings County (22-8) closed things out.
Despite the loss, the future is bright for Belden and his troops. Only one senior, Brittany Jones, was in the Bulldog lineup on Tuesday night.
“You have to give Jennings County a lot of credit,” he said. “They are a great team and [McIntosh] is a very good player. Hopefully, our kids will take something from this and come back hungry next year now that they know what this kind of loss feels like to end the season.”