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SOFTBALL: Green Machine rolls to sectional title

Floyd Centrals Jensen Striegel hugs pitcher Kassie King after the Highlanders conquered BNL 8-0 in the Class 4-A sectional final on Wednesday.

Floyd Central’s Jensen Striegel hugs pitcher Kassie King after the Highlanders conquered BNL 8-0 in the Class 4-A sectional final on Wednesday.

Floyd Central claims

third straight crown

with 8-0 win over BNL

Box score

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

SEYMOUR – The Big Green Machine rumbled to another Class 4-A sectional championship. That is not news. If Floyd Central ever loses, that would be noteworthy. No team in Indiana has been able to conquer the No.4 Highlanders, and the season is down to four games.

No in-state opponent has played them tougher than Bedford North Lawrence. The Stars lost a one-run decision in the first round of the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament, and Floyd was clinging to a precarious 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning in the sectional final on Wednesday afternoon.

This machine grinds away, applying pressure, exposing weak points, exploiting mistakes. When BNL’s defense finally faltered, the Highlanders pounced, scoring 7 runs in their final two at-bats while pounding BNL into 8-0 submission and winning their third straight sectional title.

Jensen Striegel slides into home plate with Floyd Centrals first run.

Jensen Striegel slides into home plate with Floyd Central’s first run.

Floyd Central (28-3 with a 25-game winning streak) will host either No.9 Gibson Southern (last year’s Class 3-A state champion) or No.6 Castle (with that sectional final set for Thursday) in a one-game regional on Tuesday. BNL bowed out at 17-11.

The Stars went quietly, although just one swing would have made a lot of noise. They had two runners in scoring position in the first, and had the bases loaded in the sixth – both times with nobody out – and couldn’t score. Floyd ace Kassie King would not allow it.

King (18-1) fanned 9 and allowed only 5 hits – 4 of them via bunts. She was tough under fire, and she’s not going to surrender too many chances like the ones BNL squandered. To pull off an upset, the Stars had to strike. Instead, they struck out.

BNL catcher Hailey Miller prepares to fire to first base after recording a force out at home plate.

BNL catcher Hailey Miller prepares to fire to first base after recording a force out at home plate.

“She’s a tough pitcher and she’s tough to figure out,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert said. “We obviously didn’t get the key hit.”

BNL, seeking its first championship since 2000, opened the game with bunt singles by Kate Nicholson and Jenna Dufrense, and they each moved up a base on a passed ball. Surely BNL would score? Nope. King struck out the next three batters.

Down 4-0 in the sixth, the top of the BNL order went to work again. Nicholson scampered to safety with a bunt, Dufrense reached when Floyd third baseman Maddie Probus bobbled her bunt, and Marissa Watson bunted for a hit to load the bases. This time? Nope. Two strike outs and a ground ball. And that was the last chance.

BNL pitcher Zoe Adams scattered 13 hits but allowed only 1 run until BNLs defense broke down in the fifth and sixth innings. Only three runs were earned.

BNL pitcher Zoe Adams scattered 13 hits but allowed only 1 run until BNL’s defense broke down in the fifth and sixth innings. Only three runs were earned.

“My thought process was one pitch at time, and my defense had me,” King said.

The Highlanders took a 1-0 lead in the first, loading the bases with no out but settling for Jenna Endris’ sacrifice fly. And BNL pitcher Zoe Adams (9-5) kept them quiet after that, no small feat. Floyd averages 8.7 runs per game, and it has won 13 times by 10 or more runs. It outscored three sectional foes 35-5.

An error, one of four BNL committed, was the tipping point. Gabbi Jenkins reached on a ground ball that BNL shortstop Tristin Day, sensing Jenkins’ speed, missed in her haste. Probus singled on a soft grounder to third, and Endris launched a double to left for a 2-0 lead. Dallas Henderson followed with a 2-run double.

“I felt like we were going to break open at any time,” Floyd co-coach Sean Payne said. “It just took a little bit longer than we anticipated.”

Kassie King struck out 9 while improving to 18-1.

Kassie King struck out 9 while improving to 18-1.

Floyd Central put the title in its back pocket with a 4-run sixth. Jenkins, Probus and King had RBI hits, and two more BNL errors didn’t help. Good teams take advantage of extra outs and capitalize on mistakes.

“They were aggressive,” Troy Striegel, the second half of the Floyd coaching tandem, said. “Any time they had an opportunity, they were ready.”

Hailey Miller had the only BNL hit that escaped the infield with a liner into left field in the fourth. King coaxed 10 fly ball outs, living high in the zone.

“We have a lot of confidence in her, and she makes us look good,” Payne said.

Floyd had 14 hits and left 10 runners on. Striegel had 3 hits, and the top five batters in the Floyd lineup combined for 10 hits.

“They’re a good team,” Gilbert said. “They’ve won 25 games in a row, and you don’t win 25 games in a row by a lot of luck. You take your hat off to them.”

Floyd Central, with an ace in the circle, with three Division I recruits, with left-handed speed in the batter’s box, is built for a deep tournament run. And the Highlanders are haunted by the memory of last year’s heartbreaking loss in the semistate. That motivation makes them doubly dangerous.

“This feels so good,” King said. “I know we can do it. We want it bad.”