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  • Val T.

Pioneer’s Gotshall strikes out 13, beats Winamac in Hoosier North opener

Cripe’s 3-run homer highlights 5-run 3rd, but Blickenstaff leaves with back injury


Sports Editor, RTC

WINAMAC –- The ball spins differently out of a left-handed softball pitcher’s hand.

Thankfully for Pioneer, they see a left-handed pitcher all the time in practice – their coach, Gabrielle Thomas.

Coach Thomas might not be as skilled as Winamac’s Aubrey Gearhart, but all the reps in

Hailey Gotshall

practice, plus peerless pitching from her own senior Hailey Gotshall, helped pay off as Pioneer beat Winamac 7-2 at chilly Winamac Town Park in the Hoosier North opener Monday.

Gotshall pitched a five-hitter with 13 strikeouts and added two hits and two RBIs at the plate to lead Pioneer.

But the big hit came from junior shortstop Hailey Cripe, who lined a three-run homer to left-center off Gearhart to highlight a five-run third inning.

Kylie Farris and Mackenzie Robinson added two hits and an RBI each. Robinson, a junior left fielder, also might have made the defensive play of the game when she threw out Catie Perry at the plate trying to tag up and score on McKenzie Hinz’s fly out in the fifth.

Pioneer’s only previous exposure against a lefty came against Delphi freshman Alexis Miller in their season opener. Miller and the Lady Oracles handed Pioneer their lone loss 5-4 in that game on April 3.

“They see a lefty every day at practice,” Thomas said. “I’m left-handed, so they see front-toss against me. So they’re going to see that different spin, and it does spin differently, and it does rotate differently.”

Pioneer senior third baseman Madison Blickenstaff left the game after the second inning. Younger sister Crystabelle Blickenstaff moved from right field to third base, and Jocelynn Vincent entered the game in right field.

Coach Gabrielle Thomas said Madison Blickenstaff hurt her back.

“Cold does things,” Thomas said. “Right now, it’s just a tight muscle in her back. So just going to give her a couple days off to loosen that muscle up.”

Winamac’s runs came on Ella Gearhart’s long two-run homer to the parking lot in the seventh. Perry followed with a single, but Gotshall recovered to strike out Emma Goodman and get Hinz to ground into a force out to end the game.

Gotshall retired 13 consecutive batters to start. That streak included 11 strikeouts. The only players not to strike out were Ella Gearhart, who scorched a liner to center that Adeline Cripe tracked down in the second and Aubrey Gearhart, who fouled to third in the fourth.

Perry’s double to deep left, which Robinson couldn’t quite nab despite a full-out dive to her right, ended Gotshall’s perfect game bid. Emma Goodman followed with a single before Robinson turned her double play.

Coming into the game, Winamac had won six consecutive games and had averaged 11.8 runs per game during that stretch.

“I’d just say getting ahead and trying jamming a lot of their bigger hitters,” Gotshall said of her success. “Moving the ball back and forth and not being too consistent with what I was throwing. … Keep them on their toes and not try and throw too many of the same balls.”

Winamac coach Jennifer Belcher complimented Gotshall.

“She’s by far the best pitcher we’ve seen so far this season,” Belcher said. “Our game tonight was about adjustments. Get an at-bat, make an adjustment the next time you get to the plate. And I thought as the game went on, we saw some of those adjustments, so I was pleased with that.”

Gotshall’s two-run single in the fourth followed daring baserunning from Crystabelle Blickenstaff and Farris. Crystabelle Blickenstaff reached on a hit by pitch to open the inning.

Farris then dropped down a bunt between the circle and third base. Catie Perry, Winamac’s third baseman, raced towards the pitching rubber to field the ball. She realized she had no play on the fast Ferris, and as she noticed that, Crystabelle Blickenstaff saw nobody was covering third base.

Perry noticed too, and the race was on. Crystabelle Blickenstaff just beat the play at third, and Perry’s throw to try to get Farris was also late for a bunt double.

Gotshall then came up, and she said she had adjusted to what she thought was a generous outside corner from the home plate umpire. She drilled a single to right to score Crystabelle Blickenstaff and Farris.

“I struck out before, so I was making sure that I was ready for outside, ready for high, because he was calling it, so I just kept my hands high and went with the ball,” Gotshall said. “And that one to right, same thing. I just went with the ball because it was way outside … Had to go with it.”

Aubrey Gearhart blanked Pioneer through two innings. She struck out Mackenzie Walker with Hailey Cripe in scoring position to end the first and got help from younger sister and catcher Ella Gearhart, who gunned down Madison Blickenstaff trying to steal in the second.

In the third, Emma Novaski doubled to the right center field fence and went to third on Crystabelle Blickenstaff’s chopper back to the circle.

Farris drove home the game’s first run when she grounded back to the circle, and Novaski beat Aubrey Gearhart’s throw to Ella Gearhart. Then came Gotshall’s single to center. Then Hailey Cripe, who homered three times against Morgan Township on Saturday, scorched her homer.

“It changed the dynamic of the game,” Thomas said of Hailey Cripe’s homer. “It allowed us to relax a little bit. It allowed us to get ahead of them and allowed our pitcher to do what she needed to do… and pitch her game.”

Walker then reached on an error, went to second on Vincent’s groundout and scored on Robinson’s RBI single to make it 5-0.

“I thought Aub pitched well,” Belcher said. “You take that home run away, and it’s a much closer ballgame. Cripe, she really is… tip your hat. She’s that good. You get a ball just a little too far over the plate, and she’s going to make you pay for it.”

Pioneer 7, Winamac 2

Pioneer 005 200 0 – 7 11 1

Winamac 000 000 2 – 2 5 3

WP – Hailey Gotshall (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 13 K)

LP – Aubrey Gearhart (7 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 6 K)

2B – Kylie Farris (PIO), Emma Novaski (PIO), Catie Perry (WIN)

HR – Hailey Cripe (PIO), Ella Gearhart (WIN)

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