EDITOR’S NOTE: This game ended too late to make Wednesday’s print edition of The Republic. The story and some photos will appear in Thursday’s edition.
Class 4A No. 2 Columbus North controlled Tuesday night’s softball sectional game through the first five innings, but Columbus East never quit.
Facing the threat of being run-ruled, the Olympians got the bats going, but the sizeable lead the Bull Dogs had became too much for the Olympians, and North advanced with a 14-4 victory in the opening round of the North Sectional.
The Bull Dogs move on to face Whiteland Thursday’s second semifinal game. Shelbyville, which defeated East Central 2-0 in Tuesday’s opener, faces Franklin in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“We had two innings there where we took our pedal off the metal,” North coach Ron McDonald said. “We quit hitting. We’ve got to have discipline, and we’ve got to be aggressive at the same time. For two innings, we did not do that. I talked to them over in the huddle, and the next inning, they came back and scored runs. It’s hard to keep the pedal to the metal, but we know what our goal is. Our next one on our list is Whiteland.”
Errors became the theme for East (16-12) as the Bull Dogs (24-1-1) scored three runs off of three errors to go ahead 3-0 after the first inning. North increased the lead to 6-0 when Josie Lemmons hit an RBI-single and Kelsey Lovelace followed with a two-run single.
The Bull Dogs scored two more runs in the fifth and two more in the top of the sixth to go ahead 10-0. The Olympians started the inning with consecutive hits from Mackenzie Hampton and Kenzie Foster to put runners on first and second. After a strikeout, Addy Ross blasted a one-out single to load the bases. Savanna Sullivan then smacked the ball deep over the left field fence past the bleachers for the grand slam to send the game to a seventh inning trailing 10-4.
North added four more runs in the top of the seventh to seal the win.
“We kept competing. This senior class has done a great job of instilling the fact that when we play softball, we come to win. We don’t care who we play. We’re going to throw our punches, we’re going to take our swings and we’re going to do whatever we can to try to win a ballgame. Tonight, it obviously didn’t work out,” East coach Rusty Brummett said. “That’s a very good softball team. Maddi (Rutan) is an excellent pitcher. They’ll make a pretty good run, but give us credit — we’re down 10 at the end of the ballgame, and we kept playing.”
Even though the season came to an end Tuesday for the Olympians, Brummett was pleased with the season after more than doubling their win total from a year ago.
“These ladies were awesome. These seniors that stuck it out, they’re great leaders, both as people and as softball players. The youngsters that we had in the program learned so much,” Brummett said. “Obviously, you want to win, but except for the last game, it was a really great season. I’m really pleased with how the season went.”
Rutan earned the win in the circle for the Bull Dogs, going seven innings, allowing four runs on five hits with 14 strikeouts. At the plate, she was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI.
“I started pitching out pretty well, and when they got that run, it started going downhill,” Rutan said. “I think I did pretty well and my team had my back. I’m glad I have a good defense behind me. Everyone makes mistakes, but I’m glad I have a good defense because they really help me out.”
Lemmons was 3 for 4 with three RBIs, and Payton Morris was 2 for 3 with two doubles an RBI and Lovelace was 2 for 5 with three RBIs for North. The Bull Dogs went errorless on defense.
For East, Hermione Robinson went five innings, allowing eight runs on seven hits with two strikeouts. Megan Kennedy finished the final two innings, allowing six runs on four hits with one strikeout. At the plate, Ross was 2 for 3 and Sullivan was 1 for 2 with the grand slam.
Following the game, the players and coaches on both teams shared embraces. Even though they were on opposite ends Tuesday, the majority of them have known each other for a long time and have enjoyed the game of softball together.
“I know a lot of them through travel ball,” Rutan said. “Growing up with them, and then seeing it come to and end for them is kind of sad, but I really do have good connections with them and I’m really glad I have those connections so I can stay close to them, as well as my teammates.”