By Dopug Roorbach
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Liberty Christian School and Cowan had to wait 48 hours to resume play in the second semifinal of the IHSAA softball sectional 55, but once they did it was over in a minute.
The teams had played most of the game’s tight pitchers’ duel on Wednesday night, but lightning and rain interrupted play with Cowan leading 2-1 and Liberty threatening with runners on first and second and only one out in the top of the seventh inning.
When play resumed on Friday, it didn’t take long for Cowan to finish off the Lions, but it did take a sparkling defensive play.
On a 2-2 count, Morgan Vance ripped a one-hopper directly at shortstop Kellsie Mace, who fielded it cleanly, tagged the runner going past her on the way to third, then flipped the ball to Makayla Keating at second base to force the runner coming from first and end the game.
“That’s a heart-breaking way to end that game because Morgan did a good job — she hit that ball hard,”said Lions Coach Dan Russell, “If she hits that ball a foot-and-a-half either way it’s probably into left field and either the game’s tied or we’ve got the bases loaded and the two girls that hit the ball best this game coming up.”
When the game started on Wednesday night, Cowan scored in the first inning on a leadoff double by Keating and a single by cleanup hitter Allie McCreery.
After that, though, Liberty Christian’s Lindsey Kardatzke shut down the Blackbirds for four innings. The Lions’ senior wasn’t overpowering, striking out just two batters, but she kept the Cowan hitters just off balance and also off the scoreboard.
On the other side, Cowan’s ace Shelby Wilcoxon was dominating, striking out five and facing just three batters in five of the seven innings she pitched. The Lions did manage to scratch out a run in the third when Baylee Oren led off with a walk and two outs later Kelsey Flowers doubled to drive her home and tie up the game.
Liberty threatened to take the lead in the fifth when Oren led off the inning with another walk, took second on a passed ball and went to third on an error that left Kelsey Willhoite on first. Myra Vance drove a ball deep to left, but it came up just short of the fence and was caught for the third out.
In the bottom of the sixth, Cowan took the lead when Jasmine Conner doubled to start the inning and sprinted home on a single by the next batter, Casey Creek.
The Lions responded in the top of the seventh when Oren singled with one out and Katie Maidlow reached on a fielder’s choice. That was when the lightning and rain caused play to be suspended. The game was supposed to resume Thursday, but more rain that afternoon made the field unplayable so the teams had to wait until Friday.
Following the quick finish to the semifinal, Southern Wells took on Cowan in a championship game that proved to be anticlimactic.
The Blackhawks led off the bottom of the first inning with a walk, a home run, a double and another home run to take a 4-0 lead on their way to a 10-0 win. Wilcoxon overpowered the Raiders, striking out seven and scattering just three hits.
Cowan catcher Sara Masters was the offensive star, hitting home runs in all three of her at bats and driving in five runs. The game ended in the sixth inning when three straight Cowan substitutes came off the bench and got hits to push the lead past the 10-run rule limit.