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Lapel celebrates softball seniors with Saturday win over Shenandoah

May 13—LAPEL — While the late-morning rains put a damper on Lapel's softball senior day festivities and washed out the second game of a scheduled doubleheader against Shenandoah, it did not arrive in time to slow down the Bulldog seniors — or their younger teammates — in the game that was completed.

Senior Hannah Laughlin and freshman Paige Stires each drove in three runs, and sophomore Karlie Jannings supplied better than three innings of hitless relief as the Bulldogs knocked off the Raiders 13-4 under increasingly darkening skies.

Laughlin and classmates Kooper Grinstead, Alexa Owens and Jordan Tracy were honored after the victory under a light sprinkle of rain. Shortly afterward, as the players from both teams took a break for lunch, the skies opened up and Game 2 was cancelled.

That was the lone source of disappointment for Lapel coach Ellie Balbach.

"I wanted to get my seniors some more playing time on senior day," she said. "But with a doubleheader, I guess it's good to show up for that first game."

Lapel (13-8) looks to get ready for a tough Sectional 40 at Frankton this week as it hosts county rivals Elwood on Tuesday and Alexandria on Wednesday before wrapping up the regular season with a trip to Scecina on Thursday.

"Elwood will be a good game. They're always a good game and a strong program," Balbach said. "It should be a good week for us, polish up some things and get going."

Perhaps most pleasing was that her team wasted little time in jumping on Shenandoah. The Bulldogs, known for coming from behind late in games, put six runs on the board in the first inning — the first four without benefit of a hit.

Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases with nobody out when Laughlin drew another walk to force in Krystin Davis with the game's first run. One out later, Laylah Gore brought a run in with a grounder to shortstop before Grinstead and Owens crossed the plate on wild pitches. After Delaney Balser and Tracy reached base, Stires doubled to the fence in left-center field to chase both runners home with the lone hit of a six-run frame.

"It was a little outside, but it was waist-high," Stires said. "I just made contact at the right time."

Stires, who hit her first high school home run Thursday — a grand slam — added an RBI single during the fourth inning when the Bulldogs batted around for the second time and scored seven more runs.

"(What) I'm proud of in this game is that we jumped on them," Balbach said. "And when they started to come back, especially with that home run that same inning, we jumped back on them. We showed some resiliency today, and I think a lot of growth."

Stires appreciates what the seniors have done for her.

"They've given me a lot of confidence," she said. "When I first started in high school, I was really nervous. But no matter if I hit the ball or struck out, they were always cheering for me, and that means a lot."

Tracy, who started in the circle, kept the Raiders off the scoreboard through three innings, thanks in part to the defense of Owens at third base. With two on and one out in the first inning, Owens picked off a hard-hit grounder by Kayla Muterspaugh, stepped on third and threw to first for an inning-ending double play. She also robbed Muterspaugh in the third — again with bases loaded — and touched third to end the threat.

Lapel's defense was strong throughout, committing no errors.

"That's exactly what we want," Balbach said. "With sectional now just a week away, we knew this team was going to be a good test."

The Shenandoah offense finally figured out Tracy in the fourth inning.

The rally started with a leadoff single by Gabbi Patrick before Lydia Schwagmeier singled one out later. Olivia Watson hit a grounder toward shortstop, but Patrick collided with Davis and was called out for interference for the second out, but Starlight Lee was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Raiders senior Alyssa Allen — who had already singled in each of her first two at-bats — hammered the first pitch she saw over the center-field fence for her fourth home run to trim the deficit to 6-4. It was Allen's first high school grand slam.

That was when Balbach signaled for Jannings to take over on the rubber.

Aside from a two-out sixth inning walk to Watson, the sophomore did not allow another Raider to reach base and struck out three batters — all during the fifth inning — to seal the win.

"Shenandoah is a good-hitting team, so when you go through that lineup a second time, those good-hitting teams are going to figure you out," Balbach said. "So Jordan did fine. Take away that one pitch and she's got a shutout.

"Karlie has been clutch in that relief spot all year."

The Lapel seniors all had productive days. Owens added a single to go with her defensive gems, Laughlin singled home two runs during the fourth, Tracy scored twice and Grinstead — who was slated to start Game 2 at second base — scored twice as a pinch-runner.

"We have a lot of leadership in our senior players," Balbach said. "Hannah being behind the plate a lot this year, she leads by example, but she's also a vocal leader. I think people really rally behind her."

Shenandoah (12-7) will host Rushville on Monday before travelling to Daleville for a Mid-Eastern Conference game against the Broncos.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.