By Jason Haddix
For The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. —
The skid continued for the Class 4A, No. 2-ranked Pendleton Heights Lady Arabians as they dropped their third straight, falling to third-ranked Center Grove 5-4 in 12 innings on Saturday.
The three losses have came at the hands of the third-, seventh- and eighth-ranked teams in Class 4A on consecutive nights.
In each of the games, PH (15-3) coach Rob Davis said, his team had outhit its opponents after seven innings of action. On Saturday, the Arabians connected for eight hits compared to just three for the Trojans before the teams went to extra innings.
“Lets face it, the last three nights, the pitching is real strong and the teams are putting the ball in play and that puts pressure on you,” Davis said. “It’s about how you handle it and we are not finishing very well right now.”
With one out in the top of the 12th inning, Center Grove’s Anna Gunderson reached on a bunt single and moved to second on a single by Sarah Thompson. Bailey Benefiel, who was on in relief of starter Brooke Wendling, struck out Kimmy Sullivan swinging, which brought up Sarah Butler. On the first pitch, Butler singled to left to drive in Gunderson for the winning run.
“It is disappointing,” Davis said. “It should not have went 12 innings. We had it won in the seventh.”
Benefiel pitched well during her 5 1/3 innings of work. She tossed 44 strikes in her 53 pitches and allowed five hits. What she lacked was run support from her offense. Fatigue from the strenuous stretch of games may have led to reduced production at the plate, but the junior hurler did not blame that.
“We have had a really long week,” Benefiel said. “We were tired, but that is no excuse.”
It was in the seventh when Davis pulled Wendling with two outs after the tying run scored. In that inning, two errors led to two runs being scored to send the game into extra innings.
Davis pointed again to the team’s struggles with finishing ballgames lately. He added that the Arabians can match up with any team from a physical standpoint but are struggling from the mental standpoint of softball.
Wendling gave up four runs in her 6 2/3 innings of work on three hits; however, only one was earned.
“I feel so bad for her,” Davis said. “That was Brooke Wendling’s game. She had the No. 3 ranked team in the state beaten and we could not close the deal for her.”
The Arabians battled back from a 2-0 deficit by putting up three runs in the fifth and another in the sixth. But the offense went stagnant when the Trojans skipper brought in freshman pitcher Taylor Tammill.
She set down the first 15 batters she faced until Delilah Wright lined a single to center with two outs in the 12th.
Wright was one of the bright spots for the Arabians. She went 4-for-6, drove in two of PH’s four runs and recorded seven putouts without an error. Davis said that while Wright is hitting near .500, she isn’t consistently making solid contact at the plate.
“D is fast and sometimes she plays too fast,” Davis said. “The last hit she got in the game was probably one of the best hits she had all year. Hopefully she can build on this.”
Davis said when the Arabians put everything together, they have the makings of a lethal team. He said the lumps they took running through this week-long stretch will help them as the season progresses.
“They got the best of us this week but that doesn’t mean anything right now,” Davis said. “We can learn from our mistakes and grow on it. We will be fine once it comes tourney time.”