- Val T.
Pioneer hangs on in 7th, beats Winamac to advance to sectional final
Beasy drives in 4, Blickenstaff adds 3 RBIs for Lady Panthers
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Freshman Ava Beasy went 4 for 4 with four RBIs, and Casey Webb and Kamryn Newby had three hits and an RBI apiece as part of a 17-hit attack for the Pioneer softball team in a 12-10 triumph over Winamac in a Class 2A, Sectional 37 semifinal at Rochester’s Fansler Field Tuesday.
Crystabelle Blickenstaff singled, doubled and drove in three runs, and Kylie Attinger also had two hits and an RBI.
Olivia Fisher had a double and an RBI, and Emma Sells had a single and an RBI for the Lady Panthers, who improved to 16-14.
Pioneer will play Lewis Cass in the sectional final at 6 p.m. Thursday. Lewis Cass rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat North Judson 6-5 in nine innings in the first semifinal Tuesday.
Pioneer scored five runs in the top of the seventh to take a 12-4 lead but held on after Winamac scored six runs in the bottom half.
Using three different pitchers – Blickenstaff, Adeline Cripe and Sells – on the night, Pioneer pulled through. Sells got the save and helped with her own defense, cutting off a throw from the outfield and throwing out McKenzie Hinz at second after Hinz tried to advance on the throw following her RBI single.
That meant that Corrin Combs, who homered and drove in five runs the previous night in a 9-5 quarterfinal win over Rochester, could not bat representing the tying run. Combs did single to left-center to bring up Brody Goodman representing the tying run, but she flew out to Newby in right to end it as Pioneer players stormed out of the first-base dugout to celebrate in right-center field.
“Put the ball in play, execute the small ball to move runners and then get those timely hits, and we did all three of those and had a good ballgame,” Pioneer coach Gabby Thomas said. “We weren’t going to let her strike us out. We were going to put the ball in play and make their defense work.”
Pioneer trailed 2-0 after one inning but eventually took the lead for good when they scored four runs in the top of the fifth, all with two outs, to take a 6-2 lead.
Attinger legged out a grounder to shortstop for an infield hit to make it 3-2. After Hollie Zellers reached on a throwing error on the third baseman, Blickenstaff launched a double to deep left-center for a two-run double. The throw to try and get Zellers at the plate was late, and the throw to try and get Blickenstaff returning to second was wild for an error into center field. Blickenstaff hustled home to make it 6-2.
“I knew she was a fast pitcher,” Attinger said of facing Hinz. “I was just trying to get the ball in play and maybe get an RBI and not strike out. That was my approach.”
Beasy’s RBI single in the top of the sixth made it 7-4.
Cripe got through a harrowing bottom of the sixth. She got Emma Goodman, who ranked in the top 10 in the state with her 53 RBIs, on a pop-up to short with two on and Goodman ahead in the count 3-0 for the second out.
After walking Hinz to load the bases, she fanned Combs to retire the side.
Newby’s RBI bunt double made it 8-4. Beasy’s RBI bloop single to center made it 9-4. Webb ripped a double to left-center to make it 10-4. Olivia Fisher’s RBI double to the right-center field fence made it 11-4. Sells’ blooper to left field dropped to score Webb, though Fisher was thrown out at third for a fielder’s choice. It was 12-4.
But in the bottom of the seventh, Lauren Bruce flared an RBI single to right to make it 12-5.
Sells replaced Cripe in the circle after a walk to Izzy Decker loaded the bases. Sells then walked Maggie Smith to make it 12-6.
Mikayla Werner’s RBI forceout made it 12-7. Goodman smoked a two-run double to left-center to cut the lead to 12-9. Hinz’s RBI single made it 12-10, but Sells’ throw after accepting Attinger’s throw from center field nailed Hinz at second.
“Attinger did what she needed to do,” Thomas said. “She was throwing four (to home plate) trying to get that out, and then Emma, our pitcher, is our cut-off, and Emma cut it off and knew exactly what to do, so just playing good ball and doing what we needed to do to get the outs.”
Pioneer has been using Blickenstaff, Cripe and Sells in the circle since season-ending injuries to Tiara Denny and Shaylee Goings, the team’s top two pitchers.
“Pitchers did what they needed to do,” Thomas said. “We just didn’t let them stay comfortable in the box because we were rotating them. And they’re all three different spins, three different spots, three different speeds. … They just put a smile on their face and say, ‘OK, Coach, wherever you need me.’”
Attinger was asked if the injuries to the pitchers have actually brought the team closer together.
“I think so,” Attinger said. “I think it really got to us that we could be ending our season, and this could be the last time with these people.”
Lewis Cass 6, North Judson 5 (9 innings)
Alisyia Zamora’s homer in the top of the seventh broke a 5-5 tie and gave Lewis Cass the win. Amma Fitzhugh struck out 16. Only one of the five runs she allowed was earned.
Pioneer 12, Winamac 10
Pioneer 010 141 5 – 12 17 1
Winamac 200 020 6 – 10 13 2
WP – Emma Sells (3 ⅔ IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K)
LP – McKenzie Hinz (7 IP, 17 H, 12 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 K)
2B – Crystabelle Blickenstaff (PIO), Olivia Fisher (PIO), Ava Beasy (PIO), Emma Goodman 2 (WIN), Corrin Combs (WIN)
3B – McKenzie Hinz (WIN)