By GREG MENGELT
Floyd Central has won 14 softball sectional championships, including six in the past 11 seasons.
The Highlanders are the defending sectional champs and are currently 11-2 and ranked seventh in Class 4A.
When Class 4A Southern Indiana softball teams are trying to measure up, it’s the Highlanders against whom they must be compared.
It was clear during Monday’s 5-4 loss to Floyd Central that the Red Devils clearly stack up.
“I think we measure right up,” Jeff coach Jodi Bradley said. “I think if we make a couple key plays [on Monday], we could have walked away with a win. I think we measure up well. I know if we meet them again — whether it be [Hoosier Hills] conference or sectional — it may be our day.”
“They’ve got talent,” Floyd coach Scott Castleberry said of the Red Devils. “I think everybody kind of overlooks them. But I tell you what, Jodi’s got a heck of a team.”
Jeff led the Highlanders 4-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning on Monday. It could have been a wider margin, but Floyd defenders robbed Jeff of at least two runs — probably three.
Knowing that should give the Devils confidence if they see the Highlanders again in the HHC Tournament or at the sectional, which Jeff hosts from May 6-9.
“We’re 100 percent confident,” Jeff senior pitcher/infielder Kayleigh Thomas said. “When we play as a team, I think we have a good shot at winning against Floyd.”
“I think, in [Monday’s] game, we started to peak as a team,” Red Devil senior left fielder Marley Edwards said. “I truly think that we’ll see them again. I think if we come together as a team, we can beat them and be sectional champions ourselves.”
Jeff hasn’t won a sectional title since 1997. The Red Devils have come close several times, but they dream of the day they finally get the job done.
And they believe it could be this year.
“That’s what you’re working for every day,” Bradley said. “We’re most likely going to see [Floyd again] in sectional. I think we stand in a really good spot. I like where we stand.”
“I think they’re going to be one of the teams to beat there,” Castleberry said. “I think between us and New Albany and them. It’s going to be the team that has the hot sticks at the time. I think we have three of the better teams in the state down here.”
Jeff last played in the sectional championship game in 2010 after beating the Highlanders 4-1 in the semifinals. But the Red Devils fell 4-0 to Jennings County in the title game.
That has made the Jeff seniors, who were freshmen at the time, motivated to get the job done before graduating.
“We talk about that a lot. It actually gets me excited when we talk about winning the sectional,” Edwards said. “As seniors, we’d like to go out as sectional champions. That would be awesome.”
“We do think this is our year and we think we can win it if we play as a team,” Jeff senior second baseman Tiffany Sheets said.
In her third season at the helm, Bradley has the Jeff program headed in the right direction. With strong sophomore and freshman classes, this year’s success could be a sign of things to come.
“We’re pretty young and that gives me a lot of hope,” Bradley said. “I think we have a lot of girls in some good feeder programs. I see bright things in our future.”
“I think [the program] is headed up,” Red Devil senior center fielder Janel Nelson said. “I think this is our year.”
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
Hannah Morton, New Albany
Morton threw a one-hit shutout and struck out 10 in New Albany’s 10-0 win over Lanesville in the New Albany Invitational championship game last Saturday. On Tuesday, she came back and threw a three-hit shutout in the Bulldogs’ 1-0 victory over Charlestown.
TOP PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK
• Shelbie Farvour, Borden: Farvour went 4-for-4, including a grand slam, and had seven RBIs during the Braves’ 12-6 win over Eastern last Saturday. Farvour also was the winning pitcher in Borden’s triumph.
• Sydney Michell, New Albany: Michell went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a pair of runs scored in an 11-1 win over Trinity Lutheran and the Bulldogs went on to win the New Albany Invitational on Saturday.
• McKenzie Bush, Silver Creek: Bush pitched a five-hit shutout and went 2-for-4 at the plate as Silver Creek defeated Austin 13-0 in five innings on Monday.
• Whitney Morris, New Washington: Morris threw a complete-game one-hitter and also hit a two-run home run as the Mustangs knocked off Austin 8-1 on Wednesday.
• Melinda Cochran, Providence: Cochran came off the bench to go 2-for-2 with a triple, a walk, two runs and an RBI as the Pioneers defeated Clarksville 15-2 in the City Championship on Monday.
• Ashtyn Kaskie, Henryville: The Hornets’ hurler allowed just three hits and struck out nine in a 10-1 win over Crawford County last Saturday.
• Alyssa Price, Charlestown: Price had a double and a triple as the Pirates beat Borden 15-0 on Wednesday.
• Lexi Kiper, Silver Creek: Kiper went 2-for-2 and had the game-winning RBI as the Dragons edged Clarksville 5-4 on Tuesday.
• Ali Sparkman, Clarksville: Sparkman hit a home run as the Generals fell 9-1 to Seymour last Saturday.