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April 10, 2013

SOFTBALL: Floyd Central wins nailbiter with rival Bulldogs, 2-1

Floyd Central wins nailbiter with rival Bulldogs, 2-1

FLOYDS KNOBS —  Even though Floyd Central has won its last several meetings with archrival New Albany, the contests have been very competitive between both teams.

In last year’s regular-season meeting, the Bulldogs blew a 5-0 lead in the top of the seventh inning as the Highlanders scored eight runs to win 8-5.

This year, Class 4A No. 8 Floyd Central found another way to defeat its rival with a 2-1 triumph on Tuesday at Floyd Central Field.

First-year Highlanders’ coach Scott Castleberry expected a fierce battle with the Bulldogs and said future matchups should be just as close with each program having several young, talented players.

“The good news for softball in Southern Indiana is New Albany has got a good young group, and I’ve got a good young group,” Castleberry said. “I really look for New Albany and us to be strong for years to come, and I think it will be continual battles like this.”

The key hit in the contest happened in the bottom of the first inning. With two out and Floyd Central’s Regan Hadley at third base, Highlander junior Taylor Batliner launched a two-run home run over the left-center field wall off of New Albany pitcher Hannah Morton to give Floyd a 2-0 lead.

“We’ve been working on Taylor a lot. She needed to get off the plate a little bit and relax up there,” Castleberry said. “She started off the season on fire and then hit a little bit of a downhill battle, but she’s been coming back strong. That’s kind what we expect out of her the rest of the year. She has a great stick and a great attitude at the plate.”

New Albany coach Steve Belden tipped his hat to Batliner for the blast.

“That was a very quality at-bat. I think it was 12 pitches,” Belden said. “She fouled them off on the left side and then she took it to center field. When you have two quality teams like this, that’s going to make a difference.”

The Bulldogs (6-2) had a chance to score in the top of the third. After Bailey Biggs led off the frame with a walk, Hannah Veit sacrificed Biggs to second. Biggs then went to third on an infield single by Sidney Rudy off Floyd Central starting pitcher Caroline Cato.

The next batter, Whitney Atkins, laid down another sacrifice bunt, which advanced Rudy to second to put both runners in scoring position. The threat ended when Cato forced the Bulldogs’ Brittany Jones to ground out to third.

“I had my No. 3 hitter [Jones] up [after Atkins’ bunt],” Belden said. “If they misplayed the bunt, then we’ve got the opportunity to score one, possibly two runs. With the No. 3 hitter, I’ll take my chances on that all the time.”

New Albany finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth. With two out and a runner on first, Danielle Williamson delivered a base hit to shallow left field to move Atkins to second.

After both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch, Brook McCoy hit a infield single off the glove of Floyd Central second baseman Bri Mayfield to plate Atkins to slice the Highlanders’ deficit to one. The Bulldogs’ threat ended when Cato struck out Jena Fath.

“We knew we were going to have to scratch our runs together,” Belden said.

Cato wrapped up the victory in the top of the seventh by sitting down the Bulldogs’ 1-2-3. Her record improved to 5-0 as she yielded one earned run on five hits. The junior right-hander struck out 11 and walked two.

“She did a great job on the mound,” said Castleberry. “She hit her spots. They hit some pitches we didn’t think they would hit. Overall, it was probably her best game pitched this year. Taylor McClure did a great job catching. She had good spots and had good control of the game.”

Despite getting the loss, Morton had a solid outing in a complete-game effort. She gave up two earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

After surrendering the Batliner homer, the sophomore right-hander allowed no runs on two hits and two walks.

“I’ll take that game from her any time,” Belden said. “She controlled her pitches. She had them off-balance and they’re a tough team to hold off-balance. She did what she needed to do to keep us in the game.”

The Highlanders (8-0) had the only two batters with multihit games, as Hadley and Batliner each went 2-for-3.

Floyd Central hosts North Harrison today. New Albany will host Bedford North Lawrence on Thursday.

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