BUTLER — Keep battling and play for a trophy.
If you accomplish the first, you are usually rewarded with the second.
Although a determined Central Noble softball team kept things close early, Eastside simply had too much in Tuesday’s Class 2A Sectional 35 semifinal game.
After scratching out a run in the third, the Blazers put together three big innings in a row on the way to a 12-0, six-inning victory. Central Noble’s season ends at 17-12.
Eastside (27-2) will play Westview (5-15) in Thursday’s final game. The Warriors were 14-3 winners over Churubusco in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
While the final stats show Eastside outhit Central Noble 12-2, most of the damage came in the final three innings.
The Blazers’ first four batters — Jayci Kitchen, Lilli Cline, Katie O’Brien and Grace McClain — had two hits apiece. Kitchen had a double and scored three times. Cline drove in four and scored twice. O’Brien, McClain and no. 5 hitter Grace Kreischer knocked in two runs apiece.
“It was a little bit of a slow start for us, but I liked our fight late in the game. Our girls had some really gritty at-bats and it really paid off for us,” Eastside coach Brennen Kitchen said.
“That’s the one thing, when it comes to playoff softball, you’ve got to earn everything. Teams aren’t going to give you anything. You’ve got to earn everything you can get,” he continued.
“We did that with our at-bats midway through the game and late.”
After two scoreless innings, Eastside got on the board in the top of the third.
After the first batter grounded out, Cline and O’Brien drew walks and McClain was hit by a pitch to fill the bases against Cougar pitcher Kensyngtin Kimmell.
Kimmell got the next batter looking at strike three, but the Blazers’ Moyra McAtee sent a screamer down the third base line.
CN’s Grace Swank got leather on it — not enough for the out but enough to keep the ball from getting through. The Blazers settled for one run as the next batter popped out to end the inning.
Haddi Hile led off with a walk but was forced at second as Kimmell hit into a fielder’s choice. With a 1-0 count and Avery Deter at the plate, courtesy runner Neveah Shoup appeared to have stolen second.
Instead, Deter was called out for interference with the catcher on the throw and Shoup was sent back to first.
Kierra Bolen kept the inning alive with a single to center, but the next batter grounded to first base. McClain fielded the ball and dove to the bag, slapping the base with the ball in her mitt for the third out.
Eastside responded with three big innings in a row — four in the fourth, three in the fifth and four more in the sixth — to put it out of reach.
In the fourth, Kitchen’s double brought in Victoria Roose, who drew a lead-off walk. With two outs, O’Brien, McClain and Kreischer delivered consecutive singles.
In the fifth, lead-off walks to Natalie Lower and Roose got things started. Elodie Bishop’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners up a base, and then hits by Kitchen, Cline and McClain brought the runners in.
Central Noble retired the first two batters in the Eastside sixth, but Roose singled and Bishop and Kitchen walked to fill the bases. Cline singled over center field, with all three runners scoring. Cline reached third on an error and scored on O’Brien’s single.
Eastside pitcher Natalie Lower allowed two hits and a walk while striking out nine.
Kitchen cautioned his players to not overlook Westview. This is a team that pushed Eastside to the limit last Thursday in a 4-2 loss.
“We just played Westview last week,” he said. “We did not play very well and Westview played really well. Westview is peaking right now.”
Westview 14, Churubusco 3
Churubusco had defeated Westview 9-2 on May 11, but the Warriors led from start to finish in Tuesday’s rematch.
Freshman Briana Kauffman homered and sophomore Karlie Schrock collected four hits and four runs batted in. Kauffman finished with three RBIs.
Westview scored once in the first and twice in the second. The Warriors tacked on six more in the fourth while Churubusco (12-14) got on the board in its half of the frame.
Westview added one run in the sixth and four more in the seventh. Churubusco scored twice in the bottom of the seventh.
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