Middleton, Harness’ homers, Hinderlider’s 4 RBIs lead Caston past Valley
Stiles, Bowers, Benn have RBIs, but Lady Vikes blanked after first
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FULTON — Makena Middleton and Ally Harness homered, and Macee Hinderlider went 3 for 3 with four RBIs to lead the Class 1A, No. 10 Caston softball team to a 13-3 win in five innings over visiting Tippecanoe Valley Thursday.
Kinzie Mollenkopf went 2 for 3 with two RBIs at the plate and also earned the win in the circle. After allowing three hits and three runs in the first inning, she blanked a Valley offense that had scored in double figures eight previous times this season over the final four innings.
Corinna Stiles, Abby Bowers and Brittany Benn each had an RBI for Valley. Caston improved to 11-2. Class 2A, No. 15 Valley fell to 10-4.
“Them girls have really been working hard,” Caston coach Jon Burks said. “And right there are the fruits of your labor. … I’m totally pleased. These girls are fighters. They’re battlers. Three runs aren’t going to sink their ship.”
Mollenkopf had two separate streaks of six consecutive batters retired and didn’t allow a Valley baserunner into scoring position over the final four innings. She struck out 10.
She later complimented catcher Isabel Scales’ game-calling acumen.
“In the first inning, we were trying to get the feel of things,” Mollenkopf said. “We were throwing a lot of fastballs, and in the second inning and after, I started throwing a lot of my spinning pitches and a lot of screwballs, curve balls and then change-ups. I would say my change-up allowed me to do a lot tonight, and it was a lot of Isabel’s calling too. She helped me out. She knows what to call at the right times, so I’m glad she’s behind the plate for me.”
Middleton, who came in hitting .172 with two extra-base hits on the season, doubled and homered in consecutive at-bats. Her second-inning double was a liner to the left-center field gap that scored Hinderlider, who had driven in a run with an infield single and stolen second.
That cut Valley’s lead to 3-2, but Valley pitcher Macy Kirchenstien recovered to strike out Harness and Alexa Finke and keep the lead.
Middleton’s two-run homer capped a five-run third and gave Caston a 7-3 lead. Mollenkopf had singled home Addison Zimpleman, who had singled and advanced on Annie Harsh’s sacrifice bunt, earlier in the inning to tie the game, but Valley catcher Madi Smith threw out Mollenkopf trying to steal.
But the last four runs in the inning came with nobody on and two out. Hinderlider launched a two-run double to deep left, and Middleton hit her first career varsity homer on the next pitch.
In the fourth, Mollenkopf drove home Zimpleman with another RBI single and later scored on an error to make it 9-3.
Hinderlider’s fourth RBI came on another infield single – Mollenkopf later called Hinderlider a “beast” and a “player that you can always rely on” – that scored Scales.
Mackaylie Costello came in to relieve Kirchenstien and struck out Middleton, but Harness lofted a three-run blast to deep left, her first of the season, to make it 13-3.
After Kirchenstien whiffed the side in the bottom of the first, Caston coach Jon Burks told his hitters to be more aggressive earlier in the count.
“Focus is what it was,” Burks said. “I just basically told them to focus and get their timing. They just picked it up. That’s the first time all year I think we really did that.”
Valley junior Molly Moriarty led off the game with a triple and scored on Stiles’ RBI single two batters later, but that was Valley’s lone extra-base hit. Abby Bowers had an RBI single that scored Madi Smith, and Benn drove in Stiles with an RBI groundout to second base.
Despite suffering the loss, Valley coach Brittany Mathias complimented Kirchenstien.
“She did what she was supposed to do,” Mathias said. “As a pitcher, you’re supposed to put the ball there so the hitter can hit, and they just started hitting her. Every team does that once you’ve been through the batting lineup two or three times, and you start to time a pitcher. That’s a time to mix it up. Macy did absolutely nothing wrong. She did a great job tonight.”
Caston senior shortstop Maddi Smith and Valley junior catcher Madi Smith are not related.
Harness’ homer was her first since hitting one against Faith Christian on May 1, 2021.
Caston’s game against North White that was postponed on April 18 has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. May 5 at North White. The original game was scheduled to be played at Caston. Caston and North White are sectional rivals.
Valley, North Miami and Southwood are the lone remaining unbeaten teams in the Three Rivers Conference. Valley hosts North Miami at 5 p.m. Monday.
Caston 13, Tippecanoe Valley 3 (5 innings)
Valley 300 00 – 3 5 2
Caston 025 6X – 13 12 0
WP – Kinzie Mollenkopf (5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K)
LP – Macy Kirchenstien (3 ⅓ IP, 11 H, 12 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K)
2B – Makena Middleton (CAS), Macee Hinderlider (CAS)
3B – Molly Moriarty (TV)
HR – Makena Middleton (CAS), Bailey Harness (CAS)