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Panthers ace roars in season opener

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NORTH VERNON — The fans who attended Jennings County’s season softball opener on Tuesday evening had to pay particular attention when the Panthers’ Lisa McIntosh was on the mound.

She wasn’t there very long.

McIntosh, the two-time Republic Softball Athlete of the Year, took care of her job, and visiting Batesville, in a hurry.

In the Panthers’ 14-4 victory, McIntosh pitched the first four innings, striking out 10 batters and not allowing a hit or a run. She allowed two base runners, one of a second-inning walk and another by way of an error.

Batesville didn’t get a ball out of the infield and was basically helpless.

In a two-hour and 15-minute marathon, McIntosh spent about 15 minutes actually pitching. She was fast, efficient and overpowering.

Last season, McIntosh took more than a month of the season to reach the form that has made her the area’s biggest star. She took more than two months away from softball the previous fall to get a mental breather.

She took no breaks before this season began.

“She’s worked hard, and she threw well in a scrimmage against North,” Jennings County coach Kendall Wildey said. “She is farther along than she was last season.”

Wildey knows that McIntosh hit her stride in the middle of last season to lead the Panthers to a final four finish in the state 4A tournament. So he wasn’t worried that she might take a little extra time off before her senior year.

That being said, he isn’t surprised that she went full-speed ahead going into this season.

“I’m not worried about us,” Wildey said. “It’s mostly for her. This is her senior year. She is mentally ready to go, and I think she wants to make a statement.”

Although McIntosh has scholarship possibilities, she has made the decision to not play softball in college.

“I’ve been doing it since I was 7,” she said. “People tell me that I am dumb for not playing in college, but it’s time.”

With that in mind, she wants to make her final high school season special.

“I have a better attitude about everything,” she said. “I am enjoying it more. I probably am going to miss it, but I have played for so long.”

Senior catcher Brittany Bonesteel has caught McIntosh her entire high school career.

“She is a lot stronger,” Bonesteel said of her friend’s development through high school. “She has better ball placement now, and her change-ups are nasty.”

Wildey said much of McIntosh’s improvement involves the mental part of the game.

“She is smarter,” he said. “She understands situations better. I tell her how it is important to waste a pitch. She didn’t used to want to do that. She is more disciplined now.”

Bonesteel also said McIntosh knows what she wants.

“She is outgoing, and she will tell you what she thinks, even if you don’t want to hear it.”

When McIntosh is on the mound, she doesn’t even have to yell to her catcher to get a point across.

McIntosh contorted her face into an non-approving glare that caused Bonesteel to break out laughing.

It would have been laughs all around on Tuesday if the game didn’t get sloppy.

Jennings County was up 5-0 after the first inning, and with McIntosh crushing the Bulldogs’ batters, it didn’t seem like the game would last more than four innings due to the 10-run rule.

But the Panthers’ offense stalled, and when Wildey made a pitching change, his team seemed to relax. Batesville eventually cut the lead to 8-4.

“I told our ladies that we were losing focus,” Wildey said. “We needed to pick up our intensity.”

Jennings County did snap it back together, with McIntosh ending the game with a two-run homer over the left-field fence in the bottom of the sixth for the 10-run margin of 14-4.

McIntosh also had a double in the game, as did Baylee Krueger. Kyndyl Olds, Bonesteel and Maddy Hovious all had two-run singles.

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