By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
The old adage goes something like this: “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”
But don’t try to sell the Pendleton Heights softball team on the truth of that statement. The players and coaches will scoff at the notion.
On Tuesday, in the IHSAA regional, the Arabians galloped past No. 1-ranked Roncalli 7-0 to advance to Saturday’s semistate at Bedford North Lawrence.
Immediately after PH won the sectional last week, Arabians coach Rob Davis said that he was glad his team was going to play the Rebels, who knocked Pendleton out of the tournament a year ago.
“I wanted them because I thought we’d be victorious,” said Davis. “Did I envision 7-0, no.”
PH starting pitcher Bailey Benefiel made a team of .300 plus hitters look very average on Tuesday. She failed to give up a hit until the sixth inning. She had a dozen strikeouts, including the Rebels’ cleanup hitter Megan Choinacky all three times she came to the plate.
When asked about the lofty batting averages the Rebels brought into the fray, Benefiel said, “I thought it would be a hitters game. I knew we could score, but I didn’t think it would be 7-0.”
The Arabians broke a scoreless tie in the fifth against Roncalli starting pitcher Kendra Lynch, who is going to North Carolina on a softball scholarship.
Heather Wendling walked and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Alexandra Slick. A great piece of baserunning by Wendling changed the complexion of the inning. Sydney Windlan hit a sharp grounder to third. Roncalli’s Megan Prather tried to trap Wendling off second instead of throwing for first. Wendling went headfirst into the bag from the outfield side and avoided the tag.
One out later, the Rebels walked Sarah Dixon intentionally. Delilah Wright singled up the middle and the Arabians had their 1-0 lead.
In the sixth, Morgan Hubble singled and was bunted to second by Wendling. Slick singled to left and pinch runner Kyndall Dishroon ran through a stop sign at third and scored for a 2-0 lead.
Benefiel’s magical spell over the Rebels ended when Alyssa Schoettle singled up the middle in the bottom of the sixth as the leadoff hitter. “That didn’t affact me,” said Benefiel. “I just went back after them.” Lynch, who was hitting over .500, came to the plate and popped out. Benefiel struck out the final two hitters of the inning.
The Arabians busted the game wide open in the seventh and intentional walks again backfired on Roncalli.
Dixon continued her tournament-long hot streak with a single to left. “I started by slapping, but I gave up on that,” said Dixon. “I just started swinging.”
Wright walked and Sigler moved them both up with a bunt. Dean was walked intentionally to load the sacks and Hubble was walked unintionally to make it 3-0. Another run scored on Wendling’s ground out. Then Slick received an intentional pass to bring Windlan to the plate.
“They had been pitching me inside and I really hit better when it’s outside,” said Windlan. “But I thought I better hit that inside pitch for us to be champs. I thought I hit it pretty square.” It was the hardest hit ball of the day and when the Rebels caught up with the ball and returned it to the infield, Windlan was on third and the score was 7-0.
“We fought off pitches and fought off pitches,” said Davis. “We set up the pitching machine all week on the outside part of the plate. It paid off.” In the end it meant a trip south for the semistate.