By Bill Cross
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — PENDLETON — With the weather threatening to end the night early, the Pendleton Heights softball squad beat Mother Nature to the punch Tuesday with a five-inning 11-1 Hoosier Heritage Conference win over Greenfield-Central at Legends Field.
The Arabians scored runs in all five innings as they dominated all three phases with 15 hits, solid pitching from Madison Fowler and sharp defense in the field.
“We’ve been talking about it all year, hitting is contagious,” Pendleton Heights coach Rob Davis said. “You saw what happens, one person gets a hit and they just keep falling and falling.”
Pendleton’s hit parade against Greenfield starter Mikayla Durick began with a lead-off double by Sarah Dixon in the first. It was the first of two doubles for Dixon, who filled in for injured Delilah Wright in center field.
“She’s a quality player,” Davis said of Dixon, who is normally the starting shortstop. “It doesn’t matter where I put her, she’s going to come to play and she’s talented enough and played enough games that she can play anywhere.”
Bre Pryor drove Dixon in with a groundout for the first run. Pendleton came back with three more runs in the second, including designated player Bailey Benefiel’s first career home run to take a 4-0 lead.
“It was exciting,” Benefiel said of the solo shot to left-center that landed in front of the scoreboard. “She (Durick) was down 3-1 to me so I knew the pitch was going to be perfect. I was waiting for it and got ready to swing hard.”
Greenfield scratched out what turned out to be its only run in the third inning on a strange play. Morganne Denny hit a long single to center with runners on first and second and one out. Dixon fielded the ball on a hop and fired the ball to second, where Denny had stopped. With the lead runner standing at third, Pryor tagged Darcie Huber who was caught between second and third. Pryor stepped on second for what was thought to be the third out as Greenfield’s Codey Miller raced home from third.
The umpire at second called Denny safe as the play was not a force at second base, and the run was counted. When play resumed, Denny was at first with two outs. Erika Knapp grounded out to Fowler to officially end the inning.
Pendleton struck for four more runs in the bottom of the third to go up 8-1, which was more than enough for Fowler — who pitched a complete game, allowing only six hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
“Maddie is not going to be a big strikeout pitcher,” said Davis. “She has to hit her spots and spin the ball. She hit her spots very well tonight and kept them off balance.”
The defense behind Fowler was strong as right fielder Heather Wendling accounted for four of the 15 outs, and the Arabians did not commit an error.
The game was a chance for Davis, who picked up career win No. 101, to play his bench and gain valuable varsity experience for the senior-laden squad. The Arabians used 16 players, and 10 accounted for the 15 hits.
Lea Warrum drove in the game-ending run with a single in the fifth, scoring Alyssa Clendenin. Reserves had four hits for Pendleton, with Warrum, Bailey Williams and Kerrigan McClain all driving in runs. Wendling, Morgan Hubble, Jordan Dean and Benefiel joined Dixon in the two-hit club as Pendleton had multiple hits in four of the five innings.
Pendleton (16-8, 3-2 HHC) extended its overall winning streak to four games and its conference streak to three, while Greenfield fell to 12-10 and 0-7 in the HHC.
Pendleton will travel to Elwood on Thursday in a rematch of the Madison County Tournament final.