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Panthers’ 10th-inning rally puts end to pitchers’ duel

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NORTH VERNON — While the rainy and windy conditions affected the bats of both Columbus East and Jennings County on Tuesday, there was no shortage of excitement on the mound from East’s Hayley Smalley and Jennings County’s Bug Donnell.

In those conditions, both girls didn’t allow a run in nine innings.

That changed when Kyndyl Olds connected on an RBI-single to right field to bring in Dani Kirchner with the game-winning run in the 10th inning for the Panthers’ 1-0 Hoosier Hills Conference win.

“They are a great coached team,” East coach Sonny Stahl said. “We did the best we could tonight. They relied on their best pitcher in the end to help them through the rest of the game. It was just a defensive battle.”

After Donnell struck out 10 in 9-1/3 innings, Panthers coach Kendall Wildey put ace Lisa McIntosh on the mound in place of Donnell.

“(Donnell) did an outstanding job,” Wildey said. “We put McIntosh in so we could change things up against them and see if we could get back to bat as quick as possible.”

With East’s Kaitlyn Wagner on third, McIntosh sat down the final two batters.

The Panthers (12-3, 2-0) connected on three consecutive hits, one from a single to shallow left from Kirchner, a single to right from Maddy Hovious and the game-winning shot from Olds into right field.

“We knew when Kirchner got on, we had a great opportunity to score,” Wildey said. “Olds had a hard hit ball, and Kirchner’s speed brought in the run.”

“I really wanted to hit through a gap or force an error,” Olds said. “We were struggling at bat because of the conditions. The weather psyched us out a little bit in the beginning, but we kept our heads up and pulled through.”

Smalley recorded three strikeouts for the Olympians (3-11, 1-2), playing all 10 innings and allowing eight hits.

Stahl said East’s defense kept them in the game.

“We had a great performance tonight,” Stahl said. “Defensively, we were making good stops, but we just couldn’t pull through in the end.”

Taylor Henderson led the Olympians at the plate, going 3 for 4 with three singles.

“She has struggled with her hitting,” Stahl said. “She came through in a big way for us tonight, and putting a performance up like she did in these conditions was amazing.”

Henderson said the team’s ability to pull through to extra innings gave them confidence.

“The extra innings pushed us to stick together,” Henderson said. “I was happy with my performance, but the team was just solid against a real good team.”

Wildey said the Panthers’ offense struggled through much of the contest.

“I was satisfied with our defense,” Wildey said. “Our pitching was real effective, but you can’t count Columbus East out. They came out and had a great game. We just couldn’t connect with our bats until we got into extra innings.”

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