Ladybirds finish season as state runner-up
By B.J. HARGIS
WEST LAFAYETTE — There would be no storybook ending for the North Central softball team, like last weekend when the Ladybirds scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to knock off Hauser 2-1 in the semi-state semifinals.
In the Class A state championship game Saturday at Bittinger Stadium on the campus of Purdue University, No. 3 Pioneer scored two runs in the first and then broke the game open with five in the second as the Panthers went on to defeat No. 8 North Central 10-1.
It was the first state title in softball for Pioneer, who denied the Ladybirds a chance for a second (2015).
“We had been used to playing from behind,” North Central coach Erica Arnold said of the Hauser game. “But when they had the big second inning, that really put us in a hole. Being down seven runs early weighs on you and puts pressure on you.
“We had some chances to break through later in the game, but never got the big hit when we needed it.”
North Central, who finished 23-7, scored what proved to be its only run of the game in the first.
Madison Schofield walked and stole second base. She came home when senior Hannah Shroyer reached on an error.
But winning pitcher Hailey Gotshall (30-2), a freshman, retired Morgan Manning on a ground out and struck out Kaelee Moody to limit the damage.
This would be a theme as the game unfolded.
“I don’t think we were ready to face their pitcher at the beginning of the game,” said Schofield.
Gotshall, who struck out seven and walked five, retired nine straight batters before Manning singled to left field with one out in the fourth inning — the first North Central hit.
“I was just trying to get something started,” said Manning.
Kaelee Moody then was credited with a double, moving Manning to third base.
Freshman Jocelyn Cox, who had one putout and six assists as she played errorless softball at third base, drew a walk off of Gotshall to load the bases.
Hannah Simmons and Hailey Salyer became strikeout victims as Gotshall pitched out of another jam.
In the North Central fifth, Schofield drew her second walk with one out.
Freshman Brooklin Klitzing singled up the middle and Schofield and Klitzing both moved into scoring position after a passed ball.
But Gotshall got Erika Shroyer to pop out and Manning to ground out, leaving two Ladybirds on base.
Simmons drew a two-out walk in the sixth, but designated player Hailey Salyer struck out.
After a 10-minute rain delay, North Central was retired 1-2-3 in the seventh. Gotshall fanned Klitzing to end game.
“I am so proud of these girls,” said Arnold, who has a 173-53 record in her eight seasons in charge of North Central, including that Class 2A state championship three years ago. “My heart aches to see them have to go through this.
“They had a great season. They worked hard and gave me everything they had. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Gotshall had a two-out hit in the top of the first and then Alyssa Shaw deposited a 2-1 pitch from Erika Shroyer over the left field fence for a 2-0 Pioneer lead.
Shaw finished the day 3-for-4, including a double, with one run scored and the two RBIs.
She also was named Mental Attitude Award.
After North Central had cut the Pioneer lead in half, the Panthers batted around in the second inning.
They had five hits and took advantage of two North Central errors, pushing the lead to 7-0.
Shaw had a run-scoring double and Alexis Robinson and Madison Blickenstaff both had RBI singles in the five-run second.
“That was not Ladybird softball,” said Arnold. “We just were not sharp defensively.
“Throughout the tournament, our defense had been great. But today we made too many mistakes that we don’t normally make.”
The score remained 7-0 until Pioneer added three runs in the sixth.
Kenadee Kline drew the only walk off of sophomore right-hander Shroyer and Blickenstaff doubled over Klitzing’s head in left field to put runners at second and third.
Mikenna Landis grounded out to drive in Kline.
Then the Panthers came up with four straight hits, including an RBI single by Robinson and a run scoring double to deep left by Gotshall.
Erika officially allowed 15 hits and 10 runs, seven earned. She had two strikeouts to go with her only walk.
North Central will lose Hannah Shroyer and Miller from their starting 10 to graduation. Pioneer returns seven from its starting 10, including Gotshall, who allowed three hits and the unearned run.
“We believe we can be back here next year,” said Schofield. “Hopefully we will have another shot at Pioneer.
“I like our chances.”
State championship game
At Bittinger Stadium, Purdue University
Pioneer 250 003 0 — 10 15 2
North Central 100 000 0 — 1 3 2
Gotshall and Walker; E. Shroyer and H. Shroyer. W — Gotshall, 30-2. L — E. Shroyer, 22-7. 2B — Gotshall (P), Shaw (P), Gleitz (P), Blickenstaff (P), Moody (N). HR — Shaw (P).