In a battle of top-10 ranked teams Tuesday at Shelbyville, one will celebrate its first softball regional championship.
Class 4A, No. 2 Whiteland (24-2) travels to Shelbyville for a 6 p.m. regional championship game against the 4A No. 10 Golden Bears (22-5).
The Warriors defeated Shelbyville, 1-0, on May 2 when Debbie Hill drove in Emma Piercy in the bottom of the seventh inning with the game’s only run.
Hill, a senior left-hander was dynamic. She allowed just two hits and struck out 15 to stifle the Golden Bears.
“I think the two best pitchers we saw, and we did not get to play (Keagan) Rothrock and Roncalli, were Alanah Jones (of Yorktown) and Debbie Hill,” said Shelbyville coach Mark Hensley. Jones led Yorktown to a 2-1 victory over Shelbyville on April 16 when she allowed one hit and had eight strikeouts. “Hill is a lefty and a hair harder to hit, you don’t see that as much.”
But Shelbyville has seen her once and that could be to the Golden Bears’ advantage.
Shelbyville will counter with its own ace, sophomore Cheyenne Eads, who is 13-4 this season with a 1.89 earned run average and 124 strikeouts in 103.2 innings.
Hill has more wins, more strikeouts and an ERA under 1.00, though.
“Since we’ve seen her (May 2) we’ve seen several other pitchers that have been throwing like that,” said Hensley. “Our confidence is higher now. I don’t know if we will hit her or not but if you ask the girls, they think they will.”
Shelbyville’s offensive production is slightly better than Whiteland’s this season. The Golden Bears have scored less runs than the Warriors (234-221) but have more hits (282-272), home runs (22-16) and extra-base hits (101-89).
Shelbyville is led by a pair of Southeastern Conference softball recruits in senior catcher Karissa Hamilton (.539 average, 49 runs, 10 home runs, 38 runs batted in), who will play for Kentucky next season, and junior shortstop Kylee Edwards (.562, 42 runs, 17 doubles, 39 RBIs), verbally-committed to Mississippi State University.
Freshman third baseman Addie Stieneker has outperformed high expectations, hitting .441 with 25 runs scored, 11 doubles and 33 RBIs.
Junior infielder/pitcher Hailey Pogue has produced clutch hits late in the season including two against Bloomington South in the Golden Bears’ sectional opener. She is hitting .333 with 21 runs scored, nine doubles and 27 RBIs.
Senior Kiley McIver has been hot late in the season, raising her average to .378 with nine doubles, three home runs and 21 RBIs.
“I assume this is going to be a really good game,” said Hensley. “It will not be a really high-scoring game.”
Defensive mistakes could prove catastrophic.
Hill will play collegiately for Division III Trine University in Angola, Indiana, next season. The Thunder are currently playing in the DIII National Championship series in Salem, Virginia, against top-ranked Christopher Newport University.
She also leads her team offensively, hitting over .500 with 11 doubles, six home runs and 40 RBIs.
Eight more Warriors (photo above) are hitting over .300 including Piercy (.443, 42 runs), a junior, freshman Kiley Sullivan (.383, 26 RBIs), senior Haley Wilkerson (.316, 21 RBIs) and sophomore Joslynn Harbert (.376, 32 runs).
The regional champions advance to Saturday’s Bedford North Lawrence Semistate second semifinal game (start time approximately 12:30 p.m.) to face the regional winner of 4A No. 5 Bedford North Lawrence (27-2) and 4A No. 13 Castle (26-8).
The first semistate final at Bedford (10:30 a.m. start time) will pit the winner of 4A No. 1 Roncalli (29-0) and Avon (20-7) against the winner of 4A No. 7 Pendleton Heights (24-6) and North Central (16-11).
The Bedford Semistate championship game is set for 7 p.m.