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Trojan softball team falls to Eagles on road

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Delta sophomore pitcher Natasha Coy watches one of her tosses cross the plate against a visiting New Castle batter during Monday evening’s Hoosier Heritage Conference softball game. Coy hurled an excellent game from the circle, giving up no runs, three hits, and no walks while striking out four in seven innings of work as the host Eagles defeated the Trojans 3-0.
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ABOVE: Alyssa “Peanut” Semler of the New Castle softball team pauses between first and second base after getting the Trojans’ first hit in the top of the first inning during Monday evening’s Hoosier Heritage Conference softball game at host Delta.
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New Castle’s Cameron Tabor (back) and Delta first baseman Lainey Bonser react to a foul ball hit after Tabor had reached base with a single in the top of the fourth inning during Monday evening’s Hoosier Heritage Conference softball game at host Delta. Tabor didn’t score and made some good plays on defense at shortstop, but the Trojans fell to the host Eagles 3-0.
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LEFT: Senior Mariah Nicholson of the New Castle High School softball team stands at first base after singling in the top of the first inning during Monday evening’s Hoosier Heritage Conference softball game at Delta, Nicholson made a few nice plays on defense at third base, but the Trojans fell to the Eagles 3-0.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

ROYERTON — The New Castle High School softball team played its second Hoosier Heritage Conference opponent on the road to start the 2018 season and it wasn’t much more productive than the first.

The Trojans traveled to Delta High School Monday evening to face the host Eagles and fell 3-0, once again getting only three hits in the contest. That was the same number of hits New Castle got when it absorbed an 18-0 thrashing last Thursday at Class 3A No. 1 powerhouse New Palestine, the defending state champion.

So the Trojans now stand 0-2 in both the HHC and for the season. The Eagles improved to 1-0 in the conference and 2-1 for the season.

The conditions weren’t ideal for softball, as temperatures in the high 30s, cloudy skies, and a light wind from the north greeted players and spectators alike. The game went very quickly, as it took just an elapsed time of 1:17 to complete.

“We won’t use cold weather as an excuse because everybody is playing in the same conditions,” New Castle Coach Jeff Theobald said afterward. “I think everyone prefers playing in warmer weather. It’s tough, though, when we open with two conference games on the road in these conditions, as we’d much rather play them a little later in the season when it’s warmer, and when we have an injured player or two back.”

Delta sophomore starting pitcher Natasha Coy was excellent in the circle, as she faced only 24 New Castle batters in going the distance for the win. Coy gave up just three singles, walked no one, and struck out four in her seven innings of work. Her team played flawless defense in the field behind her.

“One thing we talked about in the huddle is our approach at the plate,” Theobald explained. “We’re either hitting the ball off the end of the bat, standing too far back in the box, or something else. We need to change some things in how we approach our at-bats.”

Two of those Trojan hits came in the top of the first inning. With one out, Alyssa “Peanut” Semler got an infield hit and Mariah Nicholson followed with a bloop hit to short left field near the third base line.

But Coy induced the next two New Castle hitters to pop to the second baseman and fly out to centerfield, and both runners were left stranded on the basepaths.

The only other baserunner for the Trojans was Cameron Tabor, who got a one-out single to centerfield in the top of the fourth inning. But Tabor was left standing there as the next two batters flew out to left field and fouled out to the catcher.

Otherwise, Coy and her team were perfect, and Delta got enough runs off New Castle junior starting pitcher Kelsie Patton for the victory.

Patton worked out of a jam in the bottom of the first inning. With two away, a pop-up off the bat of the Eagles’ Breanna Evans was dropped for an error and Coy emerged with a walk on a 3-2 count after a long at-bat. Both runners engineered a double steal, putting both in scoring position.

But Patton induced the next batter to foul out to third baseman Nicholson and the hosts didn’t score.

Patton pitched a perfect second inning but wasn’t as fortunate in the last of the third. After striking out the leadoff batter on four pitches, Patton walked Samantha Herron on five pitches and Herron stole second base.

Tabby Thornburg followed with a double to left field that plated Herron for a 1-0 Delta lead. Evans’ fielder’s choice grounder resulted in Thornburg being tagged out between second and third base for the second out.

Coy followed with a pop-up infield single on a 2-2 pitch, a ball that probably should have been caught but wasn’t touched, which put runners on the corners, but the next batter flew out to centerfielder Mackenzie Bridgeman to retire the side.

The Eagles pushed across two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Natalie Maloney led off with a double over the left fielder’s head, and Lainey Bonser followed with a double to right centerfield that drove in Maloney.

“Early this season, we felt our defense in the outfield might be an issue,” Theobald said. “We sometimes take the wrong angles on balls and things like that. We’re still experimenting, and when, and if, Emily Smith returns, we can take one of our infielders to play in the outfield.”

Patton struck out the next batter on four pitches, but Alana Morgan got an infield hit on a ball hit to deep second with Bonser taking third on the play. Morgan stole second base, putting two more runners into scoring position.

Patton induced the next batter to fly out to right field, but Thornburg hit a two-out 3-2 pitch to left field for a single that plated Bonser for a 3-0 Delta lead.

After that, every hitter on both sides was retired except for the Eagles’ Kassidy Dishman, who reached base on a one-out single in the last of the the sixth inning. Dishman was erased from the bases on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Morgan, who didn’t score.

Patton absorbed her second loss of the year from the circle, yielding the three runs on seven hits and two walks. Patton fanned four Delta hitters.

“We worked with Kelsie after the New Pal game on getting the ball down,” Theobald stated, “and she was better today. But she still is getting a lot of balls over at the waist and she needs to throw strikes down around the knees. That’s something we’ll continue to work on.”

New Castle finally gets the chance to play at home Thursday when it hosts Cowan at Baker Park. The Trojans entertain Southport in a doubleheader Saturday.

“From the way the weather looks, we may be able to practice outside tomorrow for only the fifth time this season.” Theobald added.

“It will be nice to finally play a home game, and we hope we can score our first run of the season.”