April 17, 2019The North Harrison softball players are giving first-year coach Haley Book some issues when it comes to filling out the Lady Cats' line-up card.
And, it's a good thing.
Through the first six games, North Harrison has averaged 16 runs per game while shutting out half of its opponents. The offensive firepower has created plenty of options Book can go with when it comes to filling out each game's lineup.
Thursday at rival Corydon Central, the top and bottom of North Harrison's lineup provided the pop as the Lady Cats won in five innings, 10-0.
"I've been telling the girls from the beginning that it is so hard to make a lineup because this team is so deep with talent," Book said. "It's a good thing to make it tough on me to make out a lineup. One through nine, we have great hitters."
Take Thursday's card the top (No. 1 hitter Isabella Gerlach) went 3-for-4; the middle (No. 5 hitter Kendall Beyerle) went 2-for-3; and the end (No. 9 hitter Brianna Fawver) went 2-for-3 combining for five runs batted in.
"Bella is doing a great job in that lead-off spot," Book said. "She sees the ball well and also drives it well. She's really stepping up."
The freshman opened the game with a line-drive single. After Corydon Central recorded a pair of outs, the Lady Cats put up two early runs. Clean-up hitter Emily Ingle sent a double to the left center field gap. She'd later come home when Beyerle knocked her in with a hit.
It wasn't just a potent offense doing the work for North Harrison, it's the steady defense behind the heady pitching of Ashton Blackburn. The lone major threat the Lady Panthers put together offensively came in the opening inning.
Alexis Orme reached on a hit to left, followed by Grace Erwin reaching on an error. With runners on second and third, Blackburn went to work. She induced a pop-up in foul ground caught by third baseman Andrea Ness. Back-to-back punch-outs followed.
"(Blackburn) had a really great warm-up," Book said. "She needed to make a few minor tweaks (in the first inning), and sometimes you need a coach to get on your butt a little bit. It got her head in the game and she was dominate. I couldn't have asked for more out of her."
Blackburn went all five innings, giving up two hits while striking out eight for the win.
"We didn't have our bats," Corydon Central co-coach Jeff Carver said. "We typically strike out two or three times a game, and we struck out too many times. Their pitcher hit spots."
With two outs, North Harrison came up with runs again in the second. Fawver began with a single and stolen base. Flipping to the top of the order, Gerlach hit a double to bring around Fawver. A single off the bat of Kaitlynn Crone was enough to score Gerlach, making the score 4-0.
"There were innings where we had two outs and couldn't close the innings out," Corydon Central co-coach Josh Orme said.
North Harrison added two more in the third, one when Jaden Wingler reached on an infield error.
The top of the fourth provided the defensive gem of the night. Gerlach lifted a ball to deep center, prompting her teammates to jump from the dugout, to watch it fly. Corydon Central's Cami Schmitt had other plans. The athletic senior scaled the Eckart sign and took away a home run with a snag just over the yellow fence cap.
"We know they've hit some bombs this year, but we kept it in the park," Carver said. "One was helped that Schmitt robbed a home run."
The cheers turned to the Corydon Central side after the grab. Schmitt would reach base in the bottom of the fourth with an infield single, but she never pushed beyond first base. Blackburn ended the inning by fanning Amelia Yeager.
North Harrison put the game away in the top of the fifth. A lead-off walk drawn by Ingle set up a single by Ness. Jada Peyton used a squeeze bunt to not only bring in a run, but also reach base without Corydon Central recording an out.
Two batters later, Fawver cleared the bases with a triple. She'd eventually trot home when Gerlach completed her 3-for-4 day with an opposite-field single.
"North is a good team and did what they had to do," Carver said. "They got base runners on and had timely hitting. We didn't get enough base runners today to seek that big hit. We had a few girls look at third strikes, so we need to be more aggressive."
Corydon Central rookie pitcher Autumn Anderson went the distance. She gave up 11 hits and walked one.
"For a freshman, she kept her brain in the right direction," Carver said. "She struggled with her bat a little bit, but we can say that about other girls, too. I don't think she pitched too bad."
North Harrison improved to 7-0 and picked up its second Mid-Southern Conference win (the Lady Cats defeated Charlestown 8-0 on April 9).
Another key for the Lady Cats has been defense.
"They are really buying into what we are saying when it comes to the little details," Book said. "That is why they are being more dominate on the field. We work on defense every time we step on the field to practice. They are a tough group. They keep the ball in front of them."
North Harrison 222 04 10 11 1
Corydon Central 000 00 0 2 2
W-Ashton Blackburn. L-Autumn Anderson. 2B-Isabella Gerlach (NH), Emily Ingle (NH); 3B-Brianna Fawver (NH).