The last words Triton Central head coach Aaron Pyle told his team after its final practice Monday morning before the regional championship was give 100% on the field, make the plays the best you can so you don’t beat yourselves.
For the first time since 2015, and just the second time in program history, Triton Central advanced out of the sectional round of the softball state tournament. The Tigers (19-5) travel to Liberty today to face Class 2A, No. 10 Union County (21-4) at 6 p.m.
The Patriots, winners of four straight sectional tournaments, will have the experience edge on a Triton Central roster that features no seniors and three underclassmen pitchers.
“They do have a little bit more experience at this stage of the game,” said Pyle. “They are solid top to bottom.”
Union County has a devastating one-two punch in junior AnnaLea Adams (.806 batting average, 14 home runs, 55 runs batted in) and senior Shelby Hill (.554, 11 home runs, 55 RBIs). Adams, one of the nation’s leading hitters, is committed to Auburn.
“We will not take them lightly but we’re not going to focus on just those two,” said Pyle.
Union County has four more hitters in the lineup batting at least .360.
Pyle knows he will start a sophomore pitcher tonight, but which one will be a close-to-game-time decision. Sophomores Brylie Couch (7-3, 1.91 earned run average) and Lillie Fillippinie (7-2, 1.53 ERA) have been equally impressive this season.
“I am going to have both warm up and based on which one warms up the best (will be the choice),” said Pyle. “Both will be ready to go.”
Freshman Madi Peterson (5-0, 1.65 ERA) also is part of a pitching staff that has not allowed a run in 25 consecutive innings.
If the pitching staff and defense can do its part, Triton Central just needs to find a way to put runs on the scoreboard.
Union County will counter with junior Bailey Matthews in the pitcher’s circle. She is 18-3 this season with a 2.33 ERA and 174 strikeouts over 114 innings.
“I will be expecting something like the Beech Grove game (2-1 win) or the Southport game (1-0 win) or even the last Heritage Christian game (3-0 win) where it is who gets the bat on the ball first and who gets that first run.”
Fillippinie leads the TC offense, hitting .557 with eight doubles, five home runs and a team-high 31 RBIs. Couch follows at .508 with 12 doubles, six home runs and 26 RBIs.
Madison Collins, another sophomore, is hitting .478 with seven doubles and 26 RBIs.
Triton Central finished the 2015 season at 9-12 but broke through with the program’s first sectional title, just one season after Pyle stepped away from coaching the program. The Tigers lost in the regional semifinal to Monrovia that year, 26-0.
Now with a program-record 19 wins and a roster full of experienced travel ball players, Pyle does not expect his team to be nervous.
“I don’t think the girls will have too much nerves but I know the coaching staff will have some nerves,” said Pyle.
Win or lose, the experience will be invaluable for the Triton Central program in the coming seasons.
“Setting the school record for most wins, having a young crew pitching and catching with them being sophomores and freshmen makes this easy going forward,” said Pyle. “The next 2-3 years we will be solid. And we will know going forward, we can do this.”
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