Jun. 2—Spectacular infield play and solid hitting in the second half of a high school softball game Tuesday night sent Sullivan to a Class 2A regional championship with a 4-2 win over visiting Evansville Mater Dei.
The Golden Arrows trailed 1-0 halfway through the game, but Delainey Shorter led off the bottom of the fourth with a game-tying home run — apparently not injuring anyone in the crowd that was lined up several persons deep around the outfield — and the Arrows added three runs the next inning to earn a trip Saturday to the Forest Park Semistate.
“We aren’t a perfect team, but we don’t give up,” Sullivan coach Lela Earley said after the game. “I’m very proud of the team up and down the lineup and that includes the 11 girls sitting in the dugout.”
The first inning was the worst one for the Arrows, who may have been a little nervous at the start.
The Wildcats got a quick run on a single, two wild pitches and a groundout, and in the bottom of the inning Avery Wiltermood led off with a triple and was stranded there when Mater Dei pitcher Sophie Kleiman struck out the side.
Mater Dei appeared to be going to add to that lead in the top of the third. Two one-out singles and an infield out put two runners in scoring position with two out, but Wiltermood went in the hole to rob Taylor Gerth of a two-run single to keep the deficit at 1-0.
“I was just thinking ‘Don’t let it get to the outfield,’ ” Wiltermood said later.
Kendal Edmondson pitched a one-two-three fourth, and that may have started to swing momentum to the purple side. If that didn’t, Delainey Shorter’s homer did.
“I didn’t get my bunt down [in the first inning],” she said after the game. “I had to make up for it.
“We just needed that one hit to get us going. Hitting is contagious.”
Mater Dei got its leadoff batter on in the top of the fifth, and a passed ball put the lead run in scoring position. That runner broke for third when Delainey Shorter charged a one-hopper and looked to be throwing to first — but that was a feint, with a toss to Wiltermood retiring the lead runner. Edmondson then made two plays herself to get out of the inning.
“We couldn’t have her scoring,” Delainey Shorter said of her deceptive play.
Then the bottom of the batting order took care of putting the Arrows ahead to stay. Klaire Williams and Lexi Grindstaff started the inning with back-to-back singles and Kate Ridgway laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put both in scoring position.
Wiltermood got the first RBI when the Wildcats threw home — late — on her grounder, and Gracie Shorter brought in another run with a smash off Kleiman. Wiltermood was still on base and came home on a triple by Delainey Shorter.
Mater Dei rallied in the sixth. Singles by the first two batters and a one-out error brought in a run with runners at second and third, and an infield hit loaded the bases. But Edmondson fielded a grounder and got a force at home for the second out, then retired dangerous Anna Boring to end the inning. She needed just six pitches to close out the game in the seventh — a line drive to Wiltermood for one out, then two more dazzling plays by Delainey Shorter (a dive to the foul line to throw out one runner, then a dive to her left to throw out the next).
“Mater Dei put the ball in play and we made some key outs,” Earley said afterward.
“Me and Avery were definitely locked in,” said Delainey Shorter. “We said before the game, ‘Nothing’s getting past us.’ “
Kleiman, by the way, struck out seven Arrows in the first three innings. She finished with seven strikeouts.
“Their pitcher did a good job throwing low and outside,” Earley said, “but one of our goals was to improve every at-bat, and [the Arrows] did a great job.”
So now the Arrows — without a senior on their roster, incidentally — are looking for more.
“It’s a feeling I can’t really explain,” Delainey Shorter said.
“It feels amazing,” seconded Wiltermood. “I don’t even have words to explain. We came together and played as a team . . . We gave it our all.”