She’s ‘Got’ this: Pioneer senior hurls shutout in regional win over Wheeler
Cripe hits 22nd homer as No. 1 Lady Panthers earn semistate matchup with Frankton
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
VALPARAISO –- It’s going to take a lot more than one triple given up to make Pioneer senior softball pitcher Hailey Gotshall deviate from her game plan.
But that doesn’t mean that she is stubborn either. Even with only a day to prepare, Gotshall and her coaches knew enough to develop a game plan for how she wanted to pitch to Wheeler in a Class 2A regional Tuesday.
The advance preparation and the on-the-fly adjustments all came together for Gotshall as she pitched a three-hit shutout in the top-ranked Lady Panthers’ 7-0 road win over No. 19 Wheeler.
Pioneer won their 10th regional five days after winning their 21st sectional.
“They’re a good ballclub,” Pioneer coach Gabrielle Thomas said of Wheeler. “They hit the ball hard. We did a good job of getting those timely hits and getting runs and just executing defensively and Gotshall did a good job of hitting her spots.”
They will play No. 13 Frankton in a semistate semifinal at 11 a.m. Saturday at Frontier. Western Boone and Fairfield will meet in the second semifinal immediately following, and the winners return at 6 p.m. for the semistate final.
Pioneer has now won at least a regional in four sports this school year: Football, volleyball and girls basketball are the other three.
Hailey Cripe went 2 for 3 with a solo homer, her 22nd of the season, and three runs scored. Cripe’s homer over the left field fence in the top of the first inning off Wheeler freshman pitcher Clara Phariss opened the scoring.
“It was a change-up actually,” Cripe said. “I think it was the third ball of my at-bat. I just told myself that I was seeing her ball well even if I saw only two pitches before. I was seeing it well, and to expect the off-speed and expect the high ball, and so I kept my hands up, and I just drove it.”
Madison Blickenstaff had a three-run triple, and Brooklyn Borges had a pair of RBI singles. Kylie Attinger also drove in a run.
Gotshall walked none and struck out 13.
Gotshall might have also made the biggest defensive play. With Chevalier on first in the fourth and Pioneer up 3-0, Faith Lewin hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Cripe at shortstop moved to her left thinking she would have to field it. But it never got to her.
Gotshall snagged it instead and just happened to hit Cripe in stride as her momentum took her to the bag. Cripe stepped on the bag and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
“I was anticipating the ball up the middle,” Cripe said. “I was just going to field it, step on 2 and go 1 if it would have come to me. But then she fielded it, I was like, OK, well I’ve got 2, I’ve got to make the play now, so it was just kind of a knowing-each-other situation, and she stuck her glove out there, fielded it cleanly, and I was like, OK, I’m in my position.”
The biggest Wheeler threat occurred in the fifth when Sydney Ochall tripled to the right field corner to lead off the inning and Wheeler trailing 3-0.
Gotshall stayed the course, striking out Emilee Allen, Cori Weiland and Elise Byers to end the inning.
“I was just worried about the batters and getting my pitches and hitting my spots,” Gotshall said. “Basically, that was all I was worried about right there.”
Offensively, Pioneer amassed 10 hits against Phariss and fellow freshman Megan Vincent. Phariss, who had been sidelined for over three weeks in May with a left ankle injury, had to be helped off the field before the top of the sixth after apparently reinjuring the ankle.
Vincent pitched a 1-2-3 sixth, but Pioneer got to her in the seventh.
She hit Kylie Farris in the knee with a pitch with one out, and Gotshall reached on an error. Cripe bunted for a hit to load the bases. Mackenzie Walker grounded into a forceout with Lewin throwing out Farris at the dish.
But Blickenstaff, who had been 0 for 3, hit a fly to deep center over the glove of backtracking center fielder Haley Weiland. With runners running on contact with two outs, Gotshall, Cripe and Walker all scored easily. Borges delivered Blickenstaff with a single to make it 7-0.
Lewin singled to lead off the bottom half, but Gotshall fanned Ochall and Allen and got Cori Weiland on a pop to Borges to send Pioneer to semistate.
Gotshall often relied on her curve to Wheeler’s right-handed batters, a darting pitch that she could throw on the outside corner at will. She thought she would have to throw more curves based on her preparation. Wheeler didn’t win its sectional final against Illiana Christian until Monday, but Gotshall said the coaching staff said they gave her some notes and showed her some video clips.
“Definitely good today because they could turn on the ball pretty well,” Gotshall said. “So I was trying to stay outside with them. So it was pretty effective.”
Wheeler got a runner in scoring position in the first on Kyla Chevalier’s double with two outs, but Gotshall ended the inning by striking out Faith Lewin looking to end the inning.
Gotshall rampaged through the Lady Bearcat lineup, striking out six straight batters at one point during her first trip through the order.
“I was still just going from batter to batter, trying to hit my spots with each batter,” Gotshall said.
But Phariss also settled in after Cripe’s homer, retiring seven straight batters from the first through the third innings by buzzing Pioneer hitters in on the hands, a notable accomplishment against a team that came in hitting .456 as a team.
In the top of the fourth, Cripe led off with a walk and moved to second on Walker’s infield single. Two batters later, Borges singled to center to bring home and make it 2-0. Attinger poked a two-out RBI single just over Lewin’s head to score Walker and make it 3-0.
Pioneer got Borges back from a knee injury earlier than expected, and freshman first baseman’s slap-hitting style produced a pair of key hits.
“She’s a gamer,” Thomas said. “She’s tough at the plate. She’s tough on the field. She’s going to do whatever it takes to help her team.”
Junior outfielder-catcher Mackenzie Robinson missed her third straight game due to a quarantine. Thomas said Robinson should be back for the semistate.
Farris was down for several minutes after being hit by a pitch on the knee in the seventh, but she stayed in the game.
“It’s good,” Thomas said. “She just got (hit) right above the knee a little bit. She was able to work it out. I’m sure we’re going to ice it tonight and assess it (Wednesday), but it should be good.”
Only eight schools have won more than the 10 regional titles Pioneer has won in softball: Boonville, Center Grove, Gibson Southern, Indianapolis Lutheran, Indianapolis Scecina, Lake Central, Penn and Tecumseh. Boonville, Lake Central and Penn also won regionals on Tuesday. Tecumseh came into the postseason ranked No. 2 in Class 2A but lost to Evansville Mater Dei in the Sectional 48 final.
Pioneer 7, Wheeler 0
Pioneer 100 200 4 – 7 10 2
Wheeler 000 000 0 – 0 3 1
WP – Hailey Gotshall (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K)
LP – Clara Phariss (5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)
2B – Kyla Chevalier (WHE)
3B – Madison Blickenstaff (PIO), Sydney Ochall (WHE)
HR – Hailey Cripe (PIO)