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May 31, 2013

H.S. SOFTBALL: Pioneers ready for next challenge

Providence will play No. 1 Evansville Mater Dei in Saturday's Class 2A semistate semifinals

CLARKSVILLE — With two wins on Saturday, Providence would go where no Pioneers’ softball team has gone before — to the state championship game.

The 2005 Pioneers reached the Class 2A state finals, but that was when state included a four-team field. A Class 2A semistate championship at Forest Park on Saturday would put this Pioneer team further along in the tournament than any before it.

“It would be obviously something historic,” Providence manager Sean Payne said. “Getting to that point would be awesome, obviously.”

In order to get to Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis — the host site of the 2013 IHSAA softball state finals — and a spot in the Class 2A state title game, Providence will have to get by two huge obstacles.

First, the Pioneers would have to beat top-rated Evansville Mater Dei. The Wildcats are 28-2 and have won 23 games in a row, including a nine-inning, 4-3 victory over Linton-Stockton to win their first regional title since 1999 on Tuesday.

“We have to take it one game at a time. We’re playing the No. 1 team,” Payne said. “We know we have a tough chore ahead of us.”

Mater Dei’s Carolyn Wilmes is one of the state’s top pitchers. She struck out 16 Miners en route to Tuesday’s win.

“They’ve got a beast of a pitcher,” Payne said of Wilmes. “And they’ve got a pretty good lineup from what I’ve been told.”

As good as Wilmes is reported to be, Payne believes his team is capable of getting to even the best pitchers — at least the second time around the order.

“We’re seeing a pitcher one time and getting our feet wet, then we’ve been hitting the ball real well the second time around lately,” Payne evaluated. “We’re playing really good defensively and our bats are going. We have a shot as long as we’re playing our game.”

Saturday’s semistate semifinal will be contested at approximately 1 p.m., following the first semifinal between Indianapolis Scecina (19-9) and Eastern Hancock (24-6). The appearance in the semistate is Scecina’s fifth in 10 years. The Crusaders were the 2005 state champions, but they were a surprise regional champion in 2013 after upsetting 24-1 and third-ranked Cascade 5-2 on Tuesday.

The Royals are coming off their first regional championship — a 5-2 win over Indianapolis Ritter — on Tuesday.

The early Saturday start can be a concern for any team that’s used to early evening games. The last time Providence had an early Saturday game, it was a 9 a.m. start at the Edgewood Mustang Invitational on May 4. Payne liked the way his team played that day, so the early start isn’t a concern.

“We came out and played really well in that tournament,” he recalled. “The group we have is really mentally tough.”

The one concern Payne has — besides obviously playing a top-rated team — is dealing with the nerves of playing in a semistate.

“I think every team at this point is going to have some jitters,” he said. “Every game’s a new game and the further you go along the more pressure there is. We need to overcome the initial jitters and play a fundamentally-sound game.”

The Providence baseball game in the Class 2A Southridge Regional is scheduled for two hours before the Pioneers’ semistate opener. Payne expects a large pro-Providence crowd to roll in just after the game starts.

“Those fans should be able to come over and support our girls, so we should have a large contingent,” he said.

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