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Apr. 23—ROYAL CENTER — The Pioneer softball team has not one but two star pitchers.

So even though they were down two star position players on Thursday, the Class 2A No. 7 Lady Panthers were just fine against county rival Lewis Cass.

It was Hailey Cripe’s turn to toe the rubber and Cripe windmilled a two-hit shutout, striking out 15 to lead the Panthers to a 5-0 win over the Kings.

Cripe also got it done at the plate, as she went 3-for-4 with a home run, double, two RBIs and two runs scored.

The Panthers (9-1) struck for two runs in the first inning. Hailey Gotshall reached on an error and Cripe doubled to put runners on second and third. Mackenzie Robinson had an RBI groundout and Brooklyn Borges followed with an RBI single.

Pioneer added two more in the second. Addie Cripe and Belle Blickenstaff had back-to-back one-out singles. Kylie Farris moved them up with a good bunt. Gotshall and Hailey Cripe followed with back-to-back RBI singles to make it 4-0.

Cripe hit a home run in the fourth that had some fans wondering if it was a record for the longest home run ever at Herk Hoffman Field.

Gotshall, Robinson and Borges finished with two hits apiece. Emma Novaski added a double.

Cripe overpowered a good-hitting Kings team (6-4). They managed just a single each by Paxtyn Hicks and Madi Dormer. Kyndal Silcox drew a walk.

Dormer did a good job of holding the high-powered Panthers to five runs, three of which were earned. She struck out three and hit a batter.

“We just talked about with the girls that the victory for us in this one was it was a 5-0 game and taking them to seven innings,” Cass coach Jon Silcox said. “They’ve got a phenomenal pitcher, a phenomenal defense. We’ve got three girls with varsity experience. So to go up against a pitcher like that, I thought the girls who should hit the ball did hit the ball. The other ones struggled a bit which we kind of expected.

“Dormer hit her spots really well, kept them off balance. There weren’t too many big shots, enough to make some plays. But we made some errors early on that allowed for some runs and allowed to extend an inning. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the defense and I’m exceptionally pleased with the way Dormer pitched.”

The Panthers have a pair of aces with Cripe and Gotshall. Both are good defensive shortstops as well.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Pioneer coach Gabby Thomas said. “It keeps them both healthy. That’s the goal is to keep them both healthy throughout the season.”

Cripe, a junior, and Gotshall, a senior, give the Panthers one of the best 1-2 punches in the state.

“I like the rotation because I think we both complement each other really well,” Cripe said. “She’s going to throw a little more movement, I’m probably going to throw a little more speed. And being able to rotate back and forth and to have that trust and know that we have each other on defense when someone hits it or we’re going to pitch well, it’s nice to have that.”

Gotshall recently signed to play softball at the University of Southern Indiana.

“I just love the school, love the team with the energy around it. I’m happy with my decision,” she said.

Gotshall had looked into joining the Air Force. She said when she didn’t get the Cryptologic Language Analyst job she was looking for in the Air Force, she decided to go to USI and play softball. She plans to major in biology and criminal justice at USI for a possible career in forensic science.

The Panthers were without two of their star players Thursday as third baseman Madison Blickenstaff and catcher Mackenzie Walker missed the game. Blickenstaff was out with a back injury and Walker is out until Tuesday due to COVID-19 protocols, Thomas said.

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