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Patriots blanked in sectional softball final

May 27—History did not repeat itself Wednesday night at Terre Haute South, to the dismay of the Terre Haute North softball team and its fans.

Helped by a pair of unorthodox double plays, the Patriots and sophomore pitcher Kinley Sparks were trailing Avon 3-0 going into the sixth inning of Class 4A's Sectional 12 championship game, the same scenario as the previous night when the Patriots rallied to beat the host Braves 6-3.

And there was a sixth-inning rally, but it was by the Orioles, who finished off the Patriots by a 7-0 score.

"After throwing seven innings last night, and to do what she did tonight? I'm very proud of her," coach Chris Mundy of the Patriots said of Sparks, who never got much help from the Patriot offense.

North's Taylor Hoggatt hit the second pitch of the game down the left-field line for a double, and was immediately moved to third on a grounder by Rylee Pender. But Avon's Hayden Batton struck out North's next two batters, an omen of what was to come.

Batton went on to pitch a four-hitter and fanned 15, all of them swinging.

"She had an outside pitch, and I don't think we adjusted very well," said Pender — one of just two Patriot starters who didn't fan at least once — after the game.

"[Batton] had command of the outside part of the plate," Mundy agreed. "Hat's off to her. She threw a nice ballgame."

Avon got a leadoff single by Gracie Jacobs in the bottom of the first.

Then Mandy Lauth bunted her to second. Jacobs decided to continue to third, however, and was thrown out by Marlee Ramey for a 1-4-5 double play.

North got baserunners in the next two innings, and would have had two runners in the second had Jacobs not thrown out a Patriot at first base from right field to end the inning. And in the bottom of the third the Orioles small-balled their way into the lead with an infield hit, a sacrifice, another infield hit — Ramey's diving stop delaying a run — and another sacrifice, this by Lauth for the RBI.

Avon threatened to blow the game open in the fifth when Brooklyn McCord and Lacy Smith both singled with nobody out. Smith's hit got past the Patriot outfielder and rolled to the fence, McCord scoring and Smith racing all the way to third, and Smith scored on a grounder by Kendallyn Davison. Jacobs followed with a bunt single and stole second, but tried to go to third after a grounder to shortstop and this time the double play went 6-3-5.

The sixth-inning Patriot rally looked promising with one out, when Pender hammered a double off the left-field fence. But again Batton got back-to-back strikeouts, and then her teammates put the game away.

Avon's first-year coach, 22-year-old former Clay City star Harley Sinders, rolled the dice in the bottom of the sixth and pinch-hit for three of her stars, and was rewarded when senior reserve Olivia Burke beat out a bunt ahead of back-to-back doubles by Madi Lockridge and Mak Penning and a run-scoring triple by Smith.

"We've got a lot of hitters," Sinders explained later. "Sometimes it's hard to get them all in."

The Orioles might not have been considered one of the favorites going into the sectional, and weren't one of the teams getting votes in the state poll. Sinders felt that was a mistake.

"We'd been playing really well, and we beat most of the [sectional] opponents," she said after the game. "I came in with full confidence."

The Patriots, by contrast, were a long way from being considered a favorite, but came close to winning nonetheless.

"Like coach Chris told us, our record says we're the worst team in the sectional," Pender said, "but we played well as a team. It just took us awhile to gel."

"With no season last year, our plan was that we only had two kids with varsity experience, so we gave a whole lot of kids chances [early in the season]," Mundy said. "Next year? We'll have a whole lot of kids with a whole lot of varsity experience now."