- Val T.
That was one ‘Ella’ of a game: Winamac beats 1A, No. 1 Caston on walk-off homer
Scales hits 2-run homer, but A. Gearhart strikes out 12 in extra-inning win on senior day
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
WINAMAC –- Winamac junior Ella Gearhart said she could not initially remember ever
hitting a walk-off homer before Tuesday.
She just might remember the one she hit at Winamac Town Park Tuesday.
Gearhart launched her 14th homer of the year off Addison Zimpleman to lead off the bottom of the eighth and give her older sister Aubrey the win on a memorable senior day as the Lady Warriors edged Caston 3-2 in a Hoosier North softball contest.
Caston, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A for the first time in school history, saw their 15-game winning streak snapped and fell to 20-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference. Winamac, who was coming off back-to-back losses against Eastern (Greentown) and Bremen, improved to 17-6, 4-1.
It was the first extra-inning game of the season for both teams.
Pioneer, who is 4-0 in the league and who still has a home game with Triton and road games against North Judson and Caston left, controls its own destiny to the Hoosier North title.
The 14 homers ties Ella Gearhart for third in the state. Pioneer’s Hailey Cripe also has 14.
Ella Gearhart said she doesn’t try to hit homers.
“When you hit home runs, you never try,” Ella said. “So you go up there, you’re thinking you’re going to get a hit. You don’t try to hit a home run. I was just looking for a hit, a nice smooth hit.”
Aubrey Gearhart had a double, a triple and an RBI, and Kaya Campbell also had two hits. Samantha Perry had a single and an RBI, and Emma Goodman, and McKenzie Hinz also had hits for Class 2A, No. 13 Winamac.
Isabel Scales had two hits and two RBIs for Caston, including a game-tying two-run homer to straightaway center in the sixth.
Zimpleman, Madi Smith, Eillie Deming, Annie Harsh and Macee Hinderlider had one hit each.
But Caston, who had scored in double figures in 16 of their previous 21 games, also struck out 12 times against Aubrey Gearhart.
Caston first-year coach Jon Burks said his team had not seen a left-handed pitcher prior to seeing Aubrey Gearhart.
“I knew it was going to be tough coming in,” Burks said. “If we put the ball in play like we have been, we would’ve been alright, but we left a lot of runners stranded, and that pretty much sums up the game right there. … I don’t think the lefty is what really screwed us up as much as what we saw last night with Argos there (a 23-5 Caston win in five innings), coming off somebody that was only throwing about 10 miles an hour and then we’ve got to come in here and face this. I wish we had a day break in between to get some live pitching.”
In the top of the eighth, Zimpleman walked with one out. Scales hit a grounder off the glove of Aubrey Gearhart to Hinz at shortstop, who stepped on second for a force out. Scales stole second, but Aubrey Gearhart struck out Eillie Deming to retire the side.
Aubrey Gearhart said the key was hitting precise spots with her pitches. She said she also mixed in off-speed pitches with her rise ball against Caston’s power hitters. She also said that Ella is a catcher who excels at framing pitches.
“They were definitely a tough opponent for sure,” Aubrey Gearhart said. “We walked in here not thinking it was going to be a blowout by any means, and what we talked about before the game was taking it one pitch at a time, and I just narrowed it down, especially on some of their tougher hitters and just tried to focus on the little details for this game because you can’t play a game like this and throw away the small things.”
“I think Aub came out and pitched a gem tonight,” Winamac coach Jennifer Belcher said. “You know, just giving up that one home run. I thought our defense was solid all night long. Boy, what a game, what a game, to go into extras, and I thought our kids just hung with it and just got the opportunity, and thank goodness Ella saw that pitch and sent it over the fence.”
Ella Gearhart then lined a homer over the fence in left that led to an outpouring from the Winamac dugout.
After jogging her memory, she said it was her first walk-off homer.
Winamac took a 1-0 lead in the first. Catie Perry walked – it turned out to be Zimpleman’s only walk of the game – and Aubrey Gearhart’s hot grounder straddled the first baseline fair and into the corner for a triple that scored Catie Perry.
Caston got two on base in the third, but a baserunning snafu led to Rebekah Milburn being thrown at third on the front end of a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play.
Caston also threatened in their half of the fourth, but Catie Perry robbed Zimpleman with a throw from her knees at third to start the inning. After Scales struck out, Deming singled, and Annie Harsh’s double moved courtesy runner Alexa Finke to third before Aubrey Gearhart got Layne Oliver on a foul out to Catie Perry to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, Ella Gearhart and Goodman laced back-to-back singles to deep right-center to put runners on the corners with one out. Hinz grounded back to Zimpleman with the runners holding.
Samantha Perry then dropped a bloop single to shallow right to make it 2-0.
Aubrey Gearhart struck out Kinzie Mollenkopf with Hinderlider in scoring position to end the fifth.
But in the sixth, Zimpleman cranked a double into the gap, and Scales went even deeper, sending a fly ball to deep center that tied the game.
It’s unclear when the last time Caston beat Winamac in softball. Winamac is 5-0 against Caston since the formation of the Hoosier North in the 2015-16 school year.
It’s also unclear whether Caston has ever been ranked No. 1 in any sport, boys or girls, in school history. Caston has never won a sectional title in softball, and Caston has not won a sectional in any girls sport since the cross-country team won back-to-back sectionals in 1989-90.
In addition to Aubrey Gearhart, Catie Perry was the other Winamac senior honored.
Winamac 3, Caston 2 (8 innings)
Caston 000 002 00 – 2 7 0
Winamac 100 100 01 – 3 9 1
WP – Aubrey Gearhart (8 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 12 K)
LP – Addison Zimpleman (7+ IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K)
2B – Annie Harsh (CAS), Addison Zimpleman (CAS), Aubrey Gearhart (WIN)
3B – Aubrey Gearhart (WIN)
HR – Isabel Scales (CAS), Ella Gearhart (WIN)
Watch entire game on RTCtv4 here: