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Panthers open season with TEC win over Knights

By BRET MANN of KHS and C-T Staff Report

KNIGHTSTOWN — The Knightstown High School softball team began the 2018 season Monday evening against the same school that ended its 2017 season in the championship game of Class 2A Sectional 41, Northeastern.

The Lady Panthers defeated Tri-Eastern Conference foe Northeastern 14-6 to gain a bit of revenge for last year’s loss.

It had been over 10 months since the heartbreaking title game loss to the Knights last season, which ended seven seniors’ dreams of the ultimate goal of winning the championship.

Although Northeastern lost a lot of seniors as well, including a pair of Division I players, it didn’t waste any time letting Knightstown know that it still is going to be a competitive team.

The first hitter for the Knights laced the first pitch of the game from the Panthers’ Courtney Carlton into left field for a single and the next batter followed with a home run. Carlton settled in and retired the side to avoid any further damage.

Knightstown came back in the bottom of the first inning, however, when Jess Butler got an infield single followed by a double by Allyson Hauk. Then Carlton came to bat and hit a towering shot over the left field fence to give the Panthers a 3-2 advantage after one.

Carlton held the Knights scoreless the next two innings with some good defense behind her, including Kaitlyn Jackson making a sliding catch in centerfield and Butler throwing out a runner at second base. Sidney Vise made the catch and tag on that play, and was spiked on the thigh in the process.

Vise remained in the game and knocked in Lexy Goodpaster with a single, who had walked and stole a base to get into scoring position.

The Panthers scored two more runs in the third inning from a Trinidie Newby single and a walk to Cara Mullen, followed by a double steal and a throwing error by Northeastern.

In the fourth inning, Northeastern delivered another two-run homer, but the Panthers came back to win yet another inning, scoring three runs. Butler laced a double to the fence and then Carlton hit a deep fly ball that the left fielder made an error on and both runners scored. Newby got another hit, stole two more bases, and Mullen laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to give Knightstown a 9-4 lead after four innings.

Vise came in to pitch in the fifth inning and gave up a couple of unearned runs to make the score 9-6. Jackson singled in the bottom of the inning, Butler walked, and Hauk roped a double to give Knightstown an 11-6 lead after five.

Vise kept the Knights off balance and had great defense behind her to shut out Northeastern the rest of the game. The Panthers tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, led by a two-run double by Becca Haney and another squeeze bunt, this time by Jackson, to make final score 14-6.

Butler led the offense with two hits, while Newby and Hauk each had two apiece. Both Panther pitchers did a great job of staying the course and trusting their defense.

“It was a great team win,” Knightstown Coach Bret Mann stated, “and I couldn’t me more proud and pleased to start the season against a tough, conference opponent this way.”

The Lady Panthers hosted rival and renewed sectional opponent Eastern Hancock Tuesday evening.