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Panthers top Titans in softball

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Tri High School senior softball players and managers stand alongside their parents while being honored before Monday evening’s game against visiting Knightstown. Those seniors, from left to right, are Kaley Harrison, Hannah Frost, Taylor Craft, Zoie Prince, Kassidy Stewart, Madeline Hoover, and Georgia Glandon.
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Knightstown senior Becca Haney stands at second base after doubling in a pair of go-ahead runs during the top of the fifth inning of Monday evening’s TEC softball game at Tri. Haney had a pretty good day at the plate, as she was on base three times, drove in three runs, and scored twice in the Panthers’ 6-3 win over the host Titans.
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Knightstown senior Sidney Vise hurls the ball toward the plate against a batter from host Tri during Monday evening’s TEC softball game. Vise went all seven innings in the circle, was the winning pitcher, and had two hits and scored once in the Panthers’ 6-3 victory over the Titans.
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Tri’s Cheyenne Lee (4), the area’s leading hitter, crosses home plate with the first run of the contest as the home plate umpire gets out of the way and visiting Knightstown catcher Jessica Butler (11) watches the continuing action on the field during Monday evening’s TEC softball game. The host Titans saw a 2-0 lead dissolve into a 6-3 loss to the Panthers.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

LEWISVILLE—The Knightstown and host Tri High School varsity softball teams battled for fourth place in the Tri-Eastern Conference and bragging rights in the southern half of Henry County when they met on the Titan Field diamond Monday evening.

What a difference a year makes!

One year after Tri's Payton Moore hurled a five-inning perfect game in a 12-0 shutout of the host Panthers, Knightstown came east on U.S. 40 and north on Ind. 103 and dealt the host Titans a 6-3 setback to clinch at least a tie for fourth place in the TEC.

The Panthers ended their 2019 TEC campaign with a 4-4 record and improved to 12-9 overall, while Tri slipped to 3-4 in the TEC and 17-5 for the season.

"I'm just so proud of our girls," a happy Knightstown Coach Bret Mann said after the game. "Tri is a really good team, but we put it all together today. Sidney (Vise) pitched really well, Jess (Butler) called a great game from her catcher's spot, we made plays in the field, we got some timely hits, and we took advantage of some things they (Titans) gave us. We're starting to come together much as we did last year at the end of the season."

A rather large crowd gathered for this game under mostly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 50s, which also was Senior Night for the host Titans.

Tri senior managers Georgia Glandon and Madeline Hoover plus senior players Kassidy Stewart, Zoie Prince, Taylor Craft, Hannah Frost, and Kaley Harrison were honored in ceremonies before the contest. All of the senior players, except the injured Stewart, started in the field for the Titans.

Although it was Tri's Senior Night, some Knightstown 12th-graders, who were also introduced to the crowd before the game, sparkled in this contest.

Both the Class 2A Panthers and Class A Tri made it to the semi-state level of the IHSAA tournament in 2018, so this figured to be an interesting match-up.

As usual, sophomore Chloe Gentry started in the circle for the Titans and gave up a one-out single to Knightstown senior Sidney Vise in the top of the first inning, but retired the other three batters.

Vise, the Panthers' primary hurler this season, again started in the circle and retired the first batter she faced in the bottom of the first.

But Vise yielded successive singles to Tri's Cheyenne Lee, Kaley Harrison, Anastasia Sorrell, and Abi Busby, the latter a base-loaded, two-RBI hit to left field, to plate Lee and Harrison, giving the Titans an early 2-0 advantage.

Sorrell was caught between second and third base on Busby's hit and tagged for the second out of the inning as Busby scooted into second base. The next batter grounded out 4-3 to end the inning.

Knightstown scored a run without benefit of a hit in the top of the second inning, all the activity leading to that score occurring after the first two batters were retired.

One strike away from getting out of the inning unscathed, Gentry plunked Becca Haney on a 3-2 pitch and issued a walk to Alyssa Northern on a full-count pitch.

Kaitlyn Jackson, who made two brilliant catches in centerfield for the visitors, grounded the ball on a 1-2 pitch to a fielder on which the throw was dropped and Haney scored from second base to pull the Panthers to within 2-1.

Northern reached third base on the play and Jackson ended up on second base, but the next batter fanned on a called third strike to end the inning, leaving the two runners stranded in scoring position.

Vise retired the Titans 1-2-3 in the last of the second.

Knightstown tied the contest in the top of the third inning, aided by some Gentry control problems. Vise led off the frame with a single to short left field, moved to second base on Jessica Butler's groundout, and Brachelle Wisner came in to courtesy-run for Vise.

Gentry walked Paige Personett on five pitches, but whiffed the next batter on three pitches for the second out of the inning. Gentry then issued consecutive walks to Cara Mullen and Haney, the latter a bases-loaded one plating Wisner, to deadlock the game at 2-all.

With the bags still juiced, Gentry induced the next hitter to ground out 1-3 to end the inning, and the visitors left three runners aboard.

"The story of today's game was that we just didn't make some of the routine plays we made earlier in the season," Tri Co-Coach Duke Falck remarked after the game, "and as a result it led to some runs for them (Panthers) and us getting beat. Also, our approach to this game could have been better. Knightstown just seemed more ready to play today than we did, and it showed out on the field. They're a good team and Bret Mann has them well-coached."

Jackson made a running, diving catch to rob Gentry of a hit leading off the bottom of the third. With two away, Harrison beat out an infield hit, but was left standing there as the next batter grounded out 4-3 to end the inning.

"Kaitlyn struggled early at the plate but has become better as the season has progressed," Mann added. "But she has been indispensable in centerfield as has Jess at the catcher's spot. Jess has been a bit down on herself because she doesn't have the gawdy offensive stats like she's had the past couple of years and she's going to play softball in college. But I have no complaints."

Knightstown appeared to have something going in the top of the fourth inning when Jackson led off with a single to right field and moved to second base when no play was attempted on Trinidie Newby's fielder's choice ground ball on which all hands were safe.

Jackson stole third base. Vise grounded to Gentry, whose throw to first retired Vise. Jackson tried to score on the play, but was tagged at home plate for the second out with Newby ending up on third base. The next batter grounded out 4-3 (on a nice pickup by second baseman Lee) to retire the side.

The Titans regained the lead in the last of the fourth. Busby led off with a double to left field and made it to third base after the ball was mishandled by the fielder. Busby scored on Craft's sacrifice fly to right field for a 3-2 Tri advantage.

With two away, Prince singled to left centerfield, but was left standing there as Cayla Claar lined out hard to second baseman Newby to end the inning.

The Panthers took the lead for good in the top of the fifth inning. Leading off, Personett's ground ball was bobbled for an error and Alicia Knapp's double to the centerfield fence moved both runners into scoring position with nobody out.

Mullen's bunt was fielded cleanly, but no throw to first base was made, so the sacks were filled on the fielder's choice. Haney, a senior, stepped in and belted a 1-2 Gentry pitch over the centerfielder's head to the fence and Personett and Knapp crossed the plate, putting Knightstown ahead 4-3.

Mullen scored on Northern's RBI groundout and Knapp scored on Jackson's 4-3 groundout to boost the Panther lead to 6-3. Newby singled to right field, but the next batter grounded out 6-3 to end the inning.

There wasn't much action on the base paths after that. The hosts went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth and Knightstown did the same in the top of the sixth.

Busby walked on a 3-2 pitch with one out in the last of the sixth, but was erased from the base paths on a nifty 1-6-3 double play to end the inning.

"It always helps when you have good defense backing you up," Vise said after the game. "We struggled some early, but I think we are getting things going at the right time. This was a big win for us after what they did to us last year, and it's always nice to beat a rival. We hope to keep it going and go as far, if not farther, than we did last year."

After Gentry retired the visitors 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh inning, Tri's Kennedy Peggs led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, giving Titan fans hopes of a rally.

But Vise fanned the next batter on a called third strike, Peggs was forced out at second base on Claar's fielder's choice grounder, and Gentry flied out to Jackson, who made a leaping grab of the ball, to end the game at 6:26 p.m. after only 1:22 of playing time had elapsed.

"Sidney has pitched really well for us this season," Jackson said afterward, "and it's up to us fielders to make the plays. I haven't been hitting as well as I want, so I've been trying to help us win by playing good defense in the field. If you can keep the other team from scoring, you have a better chance of winning."

Tri attempts to finish 4-4 in the TEC with a game this evening at Union City while Knightstown hosts Richmond Thursday evening.

"We've struggled some in our past few games making plays and scoring runs," Falck added. "We have all the confidence in our girls that they can turn things around. That had better happen if we want to go on another long tournament run like we've had the past four years."