Jennings County softball played small ball and came up big Monday evening, bunting its way past Columbus East, 10-0, in first-round action of the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament.
More than half of the Panthers’ 13 hits were either bunts or infield dribblers, forcing the Olympians into committing several costly miscues.
Jennings County (18-4) now plays at Jeffersonville in second-round HHC play Wednesday, while East (4-13) travels to Madison, also Wednesday.
The two teams, which battled through 10 innings the previous time they faced one another, played less than six complete innings this time around (due to the 10-run rule), although they had to endure a 90-minute weather delay.
In the previous marathon contest, the Panthers finally prevailed, 1-0, but found their groove much earlier Monday as they plated a trio of runs in the second inning and erupted for five more in the bottom of the fourth.
Jennings County brought out the 10-run rule with no outs in the bottom of the sixth after Dani Kirchner led off with a single, scored on a hit-and-run double by Lisa McIntosh, who then came home on a base hit by Hannah Castor.
It was the only scoring frame where a bunt was not in the equation.
“That’s the way we like to play,” said Panthers coach Kendall Wildey. “We feel bunting is one of our strengths, and we can be successful when we execute.”
It was a bunt single by Brittany Bonesteel who got things rolling for the hosts in the bottom of the second and a fielding error by the Olympians that kept the inning alive as Kyndyl Olds then followed with a double down the left-field line to make the score at 2-0. Olds then scored on a single by Kirchner, who finished the contest with three hits.
“We just made too many errors and had no focus,” said East coach Sonny Stahl. “Jennings County is a good team, but we’re not going to beat any team when you make as many mistakes as we did.”
The O’s finished with five errors, including committing three in the Panthers’ big fourth inning where the hosts also registered five hits.
The Panthers, meanwhile, played errorless defense behind McIntosh, who went the distance in the pitching circle. She scattered six hits and walked none to go along with four strikeouts. McIntosh forced East into eight
groundouts, including a rally-thwarting, double play in the top of the fourth inning.
Kaitlin Wagner had two of the Olympians’ six hits, while Erin Tharp and Blake Thompson each recorded a double. The O’s best chance at scoring came in the third after Kiersten Henderson led off with a single and Wagner followed with a hit only to watch Henderson get caught in a rundown between second and third.
“I’m pleased with the way the girls came out and played,” Wildey said. “We knew we escaped with a win against them earlier, so there may have been a bit more motivation to come out strong this time around.”