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Panthers beat Lions in softball

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Knightstown senior pitcher Sidney Vise fires the ball toward the plate against a visiting Rushville batter during Wednesday evening’s softball game. Vise tossed a complete game from the circle and aided her own cause with a run, a hit, and two RBI as the Panthers defeated the visiting Lions 6-3.
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Rushville freshman pitcher Kara Chandler (19) releases the ball toward home plate against a batter from host Knightstown as shortstop Kendra Hamilton (32) watches during Wednesday evening’s softball game. Chandler pitched a complete game for the Lions and Hamilton hit a two-run homer, but the host Panthers won 6-3.
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Knightstown freshman clean-up hitter and first baseman Paige Personett connects on a pitch during Wednesday evening’s softball game against visiting Rushville. Personett was 1-for-2 at the plate and scored a run in the Panthers’ 6-3 victory over the Lions.
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Knightstown sophomore Mattie Manning connects on a pitch as Coach Bret Mann watches during Wednesday evening’s softball game against visiting Rushville. Manning reached base three times in the contest on two hits and a fielder’s choice and scored a run in the Panthers’ 6-3 win over the Lions.
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Knightstown senior Kaitlyn Jackson swings at the plate as Coach Bret Mann watches during Wednesday evening’s softball game against visiting Rushville. Jackson played a good centerfield and hit a RBI double, scored a run, and hit a sacrifice bunt that led to another run in the Panthers’ 6-3 win over the Lions.
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Knightstown junior second baseman Trinidie Newby connects on a pitch as Coach Bret Mann watches during Wednesday evening’s softball game against visiting Rushville. Newby went 2-for-4 at the plate and scored a run in the Panthers’ 6-3 victory over the Lions.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

KNIGHTSTOWN — The Knightstown High School softball team, ranked 17th in this week’s Class 2A poll, hosted Rushville Wednesday evening for a big cat fight and came out on top in the game.

The Panthers fell behind early, but came back to take the lead and held on for a 6-3 victory over the visiting Lions.

Knightstown evened its record to 4-4 for the season while Rushville dipped to 2-6.

“It’s great to get this win for our second in a row and get back to .500,” Knightstown Coach Bret Mann said after the game. “Rushville isn’t as strong this year, but they have a great coach with a young team, and they’re a 3A school. We didn’t play our best today, but we did enough to win. We got our bunts down today to move runners along, and that’s always a good sign.”

It was a nice day to play with sunny skies, warm temperatures, but with a strong breeze blowing. The contest began six minutes before its scheduled starting time of 5 p.m. as fans from both sides continued to trickle in.

The Panthers went with senior Sidney Vise in the circle, and things didn’t start out well for her or her team when the hosts found themselves down 2-0 after the first two Lion players had been at the plate.

Leading off the game in the top of the first inning, Rushville’s Betsy Muir laced a single into centerfield on a 2-2 pitch. Kendra Hamilton followed by planting a 1-1 Vise pitch over the right field fence for a two-run homer and that 2-0 Lion advantage. 

Vise then settled down, striking out three of the next four batters, Vise did give up a one-out single to Maddie Muir, who eventually wound up at third base after two wild pitches but was left standing there as the inning ended.

Knightstown did get one of those runs back in its half of the first inning off Rushville freshman starting pitcher Kara Chandler. With one out, Vise’s fly ball to left field was dropped for a two-base error. Vise advanced to third base on a single to right field by Jess Butler, and scored on an error on Paige Personett’s grounder to short to trim the Lion lead to 2-1.

Butler and Personett moved to third and second base, respectively, on a Chandler wild pitch, but Chandler retired the next two batters via groundout and strikeout, leaving the two runners stranded in scoring position.

The Lions went down in order in the top of the second inning. The Panthers’ Mattie Manning hit a one-out single to left field in the bottom of the frame, but the courtesy runner for her was caught off the bag when the next batter lined into an inning-ending double play.

Rushville had another threat going in the top of the third inning, but couldn’t capitalize. Betsy Muir led off with a single to centerfield. Vise struck out Hamilton (who had homered in her previous at-bat) on three pitches, but then walked Chandler on five pitches.

Muir and Chandler moved to third and second with stolen bases. But they were left standing there as Vise retired the side on a fly ball to short centerfield and a pop-up behind second base.

“After they got the two runs, I just tried to get the ball over the plate but away from their best hitters,” Vise said afterward. “My defense helped me out with some good plays. We haven’t gotten off to the best start this season, but where you are at the end of the season is the most important thing.”

Mann was proud of Vise’s performance.

“Sidney might not have said that her arm is a little sore, but it is,” Mann remarked. “We have a tough schedule and she’s pitched a lot of innings. But she wants the ball in the circle and gutted it out today. She’s a mentally and physically tough competitor.”

Knightstown manufactured a run to tie things up in the bottom of the third. Trinidie Newby led off with a single to centerfield, took second on a wild pitch, stole third base, and scored on Vise’s sacrifice fly to right field for the 2-2 deadlock.

Butler followed with a bloop hit, but Chandler got out of the inning without further scoring on a liner to the first baseman and a groundout.

The Lions’ Jama Barnes reached base on a two-out walk in the top of the fourth inning, but didn’t score.

The Panthers took the lead for good in the last of the fourth. Leading off, Alyssa Northern walked on five pitches, took second base on Kaitlyn Jackson’s sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored after all hands were safe on Manning’s fielder’s-choice grounder.

After the next batter fanned for the second out, Manning moved to second base on Newby’s single to right field and scored on Vise’s bloop hit to right to give the hosts a 4-2 advantage. Newby moved to third base on the hit and Vise took second on the throw-in. The next batter grounded out 5-3 to end the inning.

Betsy Muir opened the top of the fifth by reaching base on a throwing error, but was erased on a double play as she strayed too far off the bag after Hamilton’s liner was caught. That was a big play, as Vise plunked Chandler with a pitch and Kuhn followed with a single to centerfield. The next batter flied out to left field to end the inning.

The Panthers added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. Personett led off by beating out an infield hit and moved to second base on Cara Mullen’s sacrifice bunt. Chandler whiffed the next batter for the second out.

Jackson stepped to the plate and blooped a double down the right field line plating Personett. Jackson stole third base and scored on a wild pitch, boosting the host’s advantage to 6-2. Manning singled to left field but the next batter struck out to end the inning.

Both teams went down 1-2-3 in their at-bats in the sixth inning.

Vise retired the first two Rushville batters in the top of the seventh inning. Down to their final out, the Lions didn’t give up as Chandler got an infield hit and Kuhn doubled to the centerfield fence to trim the Knightstown lead to 6-3.

Vise then retired the next hitter on a 6-3 groundout to end the game after an elapsed time of 1:37.

The Panthers travel to Indian Creek today. Rushville hosted Greenfield-Central Thursday.

“Our schedule doesn’t get any easier,” Mann added, “but we are getting better as a team. All of these tough teams we play only help us to prepare for what we’ll face in the tournament.”