NEW ALBANY —
It looked like it was going to be the New Albany softball team’s day.
Entering the top of the seventh inning on Tuesday at Prosser Field, the Bulldogs led 5-0 over archrival Floyd Central and needed only three outs to grab precious bragging rights in the rivalry.
But that’s when the Highlanders’ offense woke up.
Floyd Central scored eight runs in the frame and prevented a New Albany rally in the bottom of the seventh to stay undefeated with an 8-5 victory.
The Highlanders’ Morgan Harper led off the top of the seventh with a single to left field. Harper then scored Floyd Central’s first run on a double by Hailee Fults that rolled to the left-field fence.
After the Highlanders’ Taylor McClure flew out to left, New Albany starting pitcher Hannah Morton issued back-to-back walks to Kallie Krammes and Taylor Batliner to load the bases. That prompted Bulldogs’ head coach Steve Belden to pull Morton for relief pitcher McKenzie Gill.
“In the seventh, she ran out of gas,” Belden said about Morton, who is a freshman.
Gill did not fare much better against the Highlanders (9-0).
Gill hit the first batter she faced in Floyd Central’s Samantha Feather, plating Fults from third base to pull the Highlanders within 5-2.
Floyd Central trimmed its deficit to 5-3 thanks to an RBI single by Briana Mayfield.
On the next at-bat with the bases still loaded, Highlander third baseman Katelin Dreher delivered a hard grounder to New Albany shortstop Mady Baumann. But Baumann failed to throw the ball to any base for a force out, as Batliner came home to pull Floyd Central to within 5-4.
The Highlanders tied the score at five when Feather ran home from third after a Gill wild pitch.
Then Floyd Central senior Kate Kaiser smacked the biggest hit of the inning.
With the infield drawn in, Kaiser collected a two-RBI double into left to give the Highlanders their first lead at 7-5. Kaiser put Floyd Central up three runs when she scored on a groundout by Harper.
During the frame, the Highlanders had 12 batters go to the plate, collecting five hits.
Floyd Central head coach Joe Witten praised Fults and Kaiser for sparking his team’s offense in the seventh.
“I’m happy with the seniors that got that inning going,” Witten said. “That inning was special. We got the leadoff girl on and we finally were swinging at some good pitches. We got some help with some walks, and we hit the ball hard to get those runs.”
Belden says Floyd Central did a great job of putting the ball in play in the seventh.
“Our pitcher, Hannah, pitched a great six innings. But they started putting the bat on the ball. We also had a couple of defensive lapses,” Belden said.
New Albany (2-3) tried to bounce back in the bottom half.
Morton started the frame with a leadoff single. But on a fielder’s choice by Abby Litkenhous, Bulldogs’ courtesy runner Lauren Camm got thrown out at second on a force play.
New Albany’s Sidney Rudy collected a single to left to move courtesy runner Bailey Biggs to second. Rudy and Biggs each moved up a bag after a Cassie Spalding groundout. But the game ended when Hannah Veit ground out to third.
The Bulldogs built a 3-0 advantage in the bottom of the third inning. Their first run came on a throwing error that enabled Brittany Jones to score from third.
Litkenhous produced the biggest knock of the frame. With one out and runners at second and third, Litkenhous smacked a ball into the left-field corner to plate Jamie Whitten and Camm.
New Albany tacked on two more runs in the sixth. With two out, Jones smacked an RBI single to right to plate Meg Biggs. On the same play, Baumann scored her team’s fifth run on a Floyd Central error.
Floyd Central had several chances to score throughout the game. The Highlanders left eight runners on base and six in scoring position. The six runners they left in scoring position happened during the first six innings.
Floyd Central’s best chance to score prior to the seventh came in the fourth.
The Highlanders had runners at second and third with nobody out. But Morton answered with three strikeouts in a row to get out of the jam.
“There were just some key strikeouts and our better hitters didn’t put the ball in play. Give them credit for that,” Witten said about Floyd Central’s struggles in trying to score off Morton in the first six innings. “We didn’t play well for six innings. They had a talented pitcher who kept us scoreless for six innings.”
In the no-decision effort, Morton allowed four runs (all earned) on five hits in 6 1/3 innings of work. The right-hander struck out nine, walked four and hit one batter.
“She buckled down. She really battled today,” Belden said.
Krammes went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored, while Mayfield was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
Harper relieved Floyd Central starter Alex Engleman in the fourth inning. Harper went four innings in upping her record to 3-0. The sophomore yielded two runs (both unearned) on five hits with five strikeouts, one hit batsman and no walks.
“She’s consistent,” Witten said. “Morgan always gives you 100 percent. She throws strikes and when you have a pitcher who can do that, you have a good chance to win.”
Jones led the New Albany offense, going 3-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Morton and Rudy each went 2-for-4.
Floyd Central visits North Harrison today. The Bulldogs will travel to Bedford North Lawrence on Thursday.
FLOYD CENTRAL 000 000 8—8 8 2
NEW ALBANY 003 002 0—5 10 3
W — Harper (3-0). L — Gill (1-2). 2B — Krammes (F), Kaiser (F), Fults (F), Litkenhous (N).
Records — Floyd Central 9-0, New Albany 2-3.