NORTH VERNON — Jennings County was feeling pretty good as it was about to break a three-game losing streak on Tuesday, but that mood became heavily subdued.
Sophomore leadoff batter and shortstop Sidney Gerkin, the Panthers’ top run producer, sustained an apparent knee injury in a collision with center fielder Kyndyl Olds on a pop fly leading off the sixth inning. She was taken to the hospital for an MRI as Jennings went on to finish off a 9-0 win against Columbus East.
“At first, she said she couldn’t feel her leg at all,” Jennings coach Steve Vanosdol said. “As she rolled over and we started working, she had a lot of pain in her knee. We’ll hope for the best. She’s a tough kid.”
The injury came just a few minutes after the game resumed following a 30-minute lightning delay. The delay came with the Panthers (7-5) leading 8-0 in the bottom of the fourth.
Jennings had started the season 6-2 but fell to Class A No. 2 Hauser, 4A No. 9 Center Grove and Greenwood last week.
“The girls needed a win,” Vanosdol said. “We have a pretty rough schedule. We’ve lost to four highly-ranked teams, and a couple of them we had in our grasp and didn’t get the job done. We know we’re a good team, and we executed.”
The Panthers were buoyed by the pitching of Bug Donnell and Gabby Mahoney. The pair combined on a two-hitter.
Donnell allowed one hit over the first four innings, and Mahoney yielded one hit in the final three.
“We were struggling there for a while, but we had a good practice (Monday) night, so it kind of got our heads screwed on right,” Donnell said. “We came out here to play ball.”
They started right off the bat with a triple by Gerkin leading off the first and a suicide squeeze by Donnell. Olds reached on a bunt single, Tesla Kopitzke followed with a single and Mackenzie Byram lined a two-out single.
Olds walked to lead off the third and scored on an error. Amanda Bonesteel reached on a single and scored on a single by Heather Feiles.
Gerkin and Donnell singled to begin the fourth, and both scored on a triple by Olds.
“Right now, our program has to find an identity,” East coach Rusty Brummett said. “I still believe that a lot of our girls who have been around for a while, when things start to go a little bit bad, they still kind of think, ‘Oh, that’s what’s supposed to happen to us.’
“We have to have a mindset change that says, ‘No, that’s not supposed to happen to us.’ They have to drive a stake in the ground and say, ‘That’s the way we used to play, but we’re not doing that anymore.'”
Brummett took the blame for running the Olympians (2-11) out of their best scoring chance. Kendra Pastrick reached on an error with one out in the fourth, but she was thrown out at third on a single by Elyse Babb.
Pastrick had East’s only other hit, a single leading off the seventh. The Olympians were plagued by six errors.
“I really think it’s a mindset that we’re accepting of mediocrity, and we need to fix that,” Brummett said. “I think once these get that understanding, we have the talent that we can make a run.”
Gerkin finished 3 for 4 to lead Jennings’ 13-hit attack. Donnell and Olds each went 2 for 3.
“We talked (Monday) night at practice, we want to win out,” Vanosdol said.” That’s the goal, and that’s the path we’re headed now.”