Gotshall hits 3 HRs vs. Frankton, pitches 2 shutouts, leads Pioneer to semistate title
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
CHALMERS –- After shutout wins over Frankton and Fairfield, Pioneer High School is on the verge of IHSAA girls sports history after its softball team won the Class 2A semistate title at Frontier High School Saturday.
The top-ranked Lady Panthers beat Frankton 13-0 in the semifinals and Fairfield 7-0 in the final. They extended their winning streak to 22 games and improved to 34-2 overall. They have outscored their opponents 57-4 in six postseason games.
Pioneer will next face No. 10 Sullivan in the state title game at 4:30 p.m. this Saturday at Center Grove Elementary School, 2455 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood.
“Wonderful,” coach Gabrielle Thomas said. “I’m ready. Excited.”
If Pioneer beats Sullivan, they would win their third state title in girls sports in a seven-month span. Pioneer won the Class 1A state title in volleyball in November and the 1A state title in basketball in February. They defeated Loogootee for both the volleyball and basketball state titles.
No school has won state titles in volleyball, girls basketball and softball in the same school year in IHSAA history.
“It feels pretty awesome,” senior catcher Mackenzie Walker said. “To be able to do it in all three sports this year, it’s just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. And if we happen to make it all the way and win it, then that is a huge accomplishment and goal made for us.”
Said senior third baseman Madison Blickenstaff: “Awesome. Third time in the same year – that’s insane. I don’t know. I never thought as a freshman that that was going to happen.”
Said freshman first baseman Brooklyn Borges: “Exciting. Third time. Exciting.”
Thomas was asked if the players are easy to motivate.
“Yes,” she said. “They’re on a mission.”
Pioneer has won the semistate the last three times the state tournament has been held. They won the Class 1A state title in 2018 and were the Class 1A runners-up in 2019.
Hailey Gotshall pitched a two-hit shutout against Frankton and a one-hit shutout against Fairfield. She also spearheaded Pioneer’s 14-hit attack against Frankton with three homers and five RBIs.
Gotshall is hitting .609 with 19 homers on the season. She ranks second on the team and third in the state in homers. Teammate Hailey Cripe is hitting .583 with a state-leading 23 homers. Cripe’s 23rd homer, a solo shot in the fifth inning to straightaway center, occurred in the Fairfield game.
In the Frankton game, Kylie Farris had two hits and three RBIs, and Walker and Kylie Attinger had two hits and an RBI each. Borges also had two hits. Blickenstaff had a double and two RBIs, and Emma Novaski and Cripe each had a single.
In the Fairfield game, Cripe, Madison Blickenstaff and Crystabelle Blickenstaff had two hits each. Farris, Gotshall and Mackenzie Robinson had one hit each. Cripe and Gotshall had two RBIs each, and Borges, Crystabelle Blickenstaff and Attinger had one RBI each.
Pioneer scored five runs in the second inning to grab a 5-0 lead and never trailed.
“The key to that second inning was just executing, getting those baserunners on and scoring,” Thomas said. “(The Fairfield pitcher) did a great job of hitting her spots and throwing that change-up. As soon as we executed on the spots that she threw that faster pitch, we were able to get those runs and execute on their mistakes.”
Any lead is typically safe for Pioneer. They have not lost a game in which they have led since the Delphi game in their season opener. They led that game 1-0 in the second inning.
They have also not lost a game in which they had a lead of multiple runs since a 13-11 loss to Lewis Cass on April 19, 2018.
“Actually at this point, we’ve played in so many high-intensity games,” Farris said. “You just have to keep your cool. It’s just another game honestly. That’s just how you have to play it. Just get solid base hits. Make the easy plays. Just do all the things right that we’ve always done.”
Gotshall walked one and fanned eight in the Frankton game and walked nobody and struck out 13 in the Fairfield game.
She also had no walks and 13 strikeouts in a 7-0 regional win over Wheeler on June 1.
Thomas considered starting Cripe for one of the semistate games, but she decided to stick with Gotshall.
“I said it to her when we were talking back and forth thinking who would throw the second game,” Thomas said. “I said, ‘You want to go?’
“And she was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll go, Coach.’ And I said, ‘You have more pop the more you pitch. The longer you pitch throughout the day, I think she has more pop.”
Semifinal: Pioneer 13, Frankton 0
Pioneer 102 033 4 – 13
Frankton 000 000 0 – 0
WP – Hailey Gotshall (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K)
2B – Mackenzie Walker (PIO), Madison Blickenstaff (PIO)
3B – Brooklyn Borges (PIO)
HR – Hailey Gotshall 3 (PIO)
Final: Pioneer 7, Fairfield 0
Pioneer 050 020 0 – 7 9 0
Fairfield 000 000 0 – 0 1 3
WP – Hailey Gotshall (7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K)
2B – Kylie Farris (PIO), Hailey Gotshall (PIO)
HR – Hailey Cripe (PIO)
Highlights of the semi-state championship game: