For the Daily Reporter
GREENFIELD — The Pendleton Heights softball team delivered a staggering body blow in the first inning, and Greenfield-Central never recovered.
According to their coach, they were never ready to recover.
The Arabians struck for six first-inning runs and countered every Cougar comeback to hand host Greenfield-Central a 15-7 defeat Wednesday.
Pendleton Heights moved to 18-8 overall and 4-2 in Hoosier Heritage Conference play, while the Cougars fell to 19-5 and 5-2. Each team has one regular-season game remaining before sectional play begins next week at Greenfield-Central when the Arabians play New Castle and the Cougars take on Muncie Central.
Pendleton Heights jumped on Cougars’ starter Lexi Rankin in the first inning. Of the six runs in the opening frame, three were unearned due to two costly errors. Arabian starting pitcher Amanda White and Mickala Winans each delivered two-run singles in the inning.
Coach Jason Stewart gave credit to the Arabian hitters, but added that his team did not help Rankin in the field.
“They came out and hit the ball and we didn’t field the ball, plain and simple,” he said. “Some balls we hit hard were right at them, and the balls they hit were falling.”
White scattered 13 hits in going the distance for the Arabians, her first complete game of the season. She struck out four and walked one, but Stewart said the Cougar batters helped the sophomore in their approaches at the plate.
“I saw a bunch of kids take a bunch of bad swings tonight,” he said. “I didn’t see anything that she did, and that’s not being disrespectful to her. Our approach tonight was awful and our focus was terrible. Our kids didn’t come out ready to play and you can put that on me if you want.”
Maria Kihega and Michaela Ballman connected for back-to-back home runs in the fifth, but White escaped several jams, stranding six baserunners and inducing a rally-killing double play in the third inning.
Ballman and Rankin each collected three hits for the Cougars, who Stewart hopes can learn something from this loss a week ahead of a possible sectional semifinal rematch.
“They need to learn to compete,” he said. “They didn’t come to compete tonight. They got smacked in the mouth in the first inning a little bit. They just laid down and didn’t field the ball.”
Pendleton Heights 15, Greenfield-Central 6
PH (18-8, 5-2 HHC);610;402;2;—;15;19;0
GC (19-5, 4-2 HHC);101;021;0;—;6;13;2
WP: Amanda White (PH) LP: Lexi Rankin (GC)
HR: Maria Kihega, Michaela Ballman (GC). 3B: Ally Hall (PH). 2B: Morganne Denny, Sam Kihega, Sarah Morris (GC); Lauren Landes (PH)
RBI: Amanda White 2, Mickala Winans 2, Landes 4, Olivia Conner 2, Ally Hall 3 (PH); S. Kihega 2, Denny, M. Kihega, Ballman, Emily Francis, Jessi Rankin, Morris (GC).
Notables: Hall 3-3, 2 BB, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 R, Landes 3-5, 4 RBI (PH); Ballman 3-3, RBI, 3 R, HR (GC).