By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. —
Another grand pitching performance and a slightly irritated shortstop guided the Pendleton Heights softball team to the Madison County Tournament title Saturday afternoon.
Junior Bailey Benefiel dominated all but one of the Elwood hitters, striking out 12 as the Arabians defeated the Panthers 11-1.
Elwood had just two baserunners and both times it was center fielder Jessie Noone, who had a single and a stolen base in the first inning and a double and a run scored in the fourth. None of the other Panthers reached base.
“My rise ball was good today,” said Benefiel. “They were going for that.”
“She is a rise ball pitcher,” said PH coach Rob Davis. “When a team doesn’t see it that often, it is a tough pitch.”
The Arabians scored all the runs they would need when four scored in the top of the first. After Heather Wendling and Delilah Wright walked, both came in on a double by Elizabeth Sigler. Sigler scored on Alexandra Slick’s single and Morgan Hubble scored on a single by Sydney Windlan.
One player who didn’t figure in the scoring in that inning, leadoff hitter and shortstop Sarah Dixon, would play a big role in the remainder of the runs the Arabians scored.
She struck out against Elwood starting pitcher Kelsey Hughes to open the game and then was on base the final three times she came to bat. Did the strikeout make her angry? Not really.
“I was angry, but it was because I hit a ball down the line and it was called foul and I didn’t think it was foul,” said Dixon.
But after the Arabians batted nine players in the opening inning, Dixon was ready to lead off again in the second. This time there was a different result.
Dixon hit a long and high drive to right field and it cleared the fence. “That was my first home run (in a varsity game),” said Dixon. “I got my pitch. It was high and inside. (Hughes) had good speed and she had a good changeup.”
That blast made the score 5-0. It grew to 6-0 in the third when Dixon singled in Breanna Pryor.
Elwood got on the board when Noone doubled to open the bottom of the fourth and scored on a stolen base and a fielder’s choice.
Pendleton Heights, leading 6-1, put up five runs in the sixth to provide the 10-run cushion needed to finish the contest early. The inning featured seven singles, one each by Pryor, Dixon, Wendling, Wright, Singler, Slick and Benefiel. The final run was chased home on Windlan’s sacrifice fly.
Benefiel set down the Panthers in order in the bottom of the sixth, and the title belonged to the No. 4-ranked Arabians.
“We are playing very well right now,” said Davis. “The girls are playing with a lot of confidence. The reason we’ve had success so far is that we’re playing with confidence.”
PH (9-0) returns to action on Monday, hosting Anderson.