FORTVILLE — Spectators prior to taking the field on Monday night, the Mt. Vernon Marauders’ focus sharpened quickly as they watched a shocked Cathedral Irish team leave the diamond for the last time this season.
The defending Class 4A Sectional 9 champions, Cathedral, who ousted Mt. Vernon in the finals a year ago, lost to Lawrence North 5-4 in the tournament opener.
Two things followed as a result, Mt. Vernon head coach Veronica Kirby said.
One, this tournament is now wide open. Two, no matter how sure you are, nothing is certain this time of the year.
The Marauders (10-13), who have now won four of their last five game, left nothing to chance once they took their home field, posting 16 hits en route to a 12-4 first-round win against Warren Central.
“We’ve said it from the beginning, it’s not where we start, it’s where we finish,” Kirby said. “We just started playing hot at the right time. We’re really getting it done, every single one of them. It’s working for us.”
Against Warren Central (6-20-1) everything clicked, especially at the plate. The Marauders had four extra base hits, led by Kaitlyn Nugent’s two-out grand slam in the top of the fourth.
Every batter in the lineup recorded at least one hit while Tori Whyde set the tone earning her fourth win with a solid 4.0 innings pitched.
“She really showed her leadership there as a senior,” Kirby remarked on Whyde’s start. “She’s had that all year.”
Whyde allow seven hits and three runs, but dug in to keep the Warriors at bay even when the game was still close to rack up three strikeouts.
“Honestly, I was just focused on getting it done,” Whyde said.
Early on, however, there were some hiccups as the Marauders let a few opportunities slip away.
A pair of basing-running miscues cost the Marauders a chance to get going, but they regrouped.
First, Anelise Worden tried to stretch a double into a triple with one out in the top of the second, but she was cut down by a heads-up relay throw to third base.
Then with two outs and two runners on, Sydnee Perry lined a single to load the bases. But a misread sign led to a key out on a rundown.
Mt. Vernon left two runners stranded — two in scoring position total — in both the top of the first and the second, but the runs came around quickly and in droves in the third.
“Anything can happen. I told them before the game, you can’t take Warren lightly. If you get too confident, you’re going home,” Kirby said.
A two-run double by Jadan Fithian put the Marauders in position to break open the game, which Cassidy Parker did with an RBI single to right, increasing Mt. Vernon’s lead 3-0.
Parker’s hit drove in Fithian before the Marauders loaded the bases off a fielder’s choice, a throwing error and a walk by Whyde. A fly ball to left field ended the rally, however.
Whyde kept her composure throughout. In the bottom of the third, the right-hander walked the lead-off hitter and surrendered a single to Hevon Williams with no outs.
The senior limited the damage to one run as she struck out the next two batters and ended a bases-loaded threat by inducing a first-pitch popup to shortstop.
“It was a wake up call (when Cathedral lost). We knew we couldn’t go into this thing like we had it in the bag,” Whyde said. “We had to come in ready and intense.”
The offense backed up Whyde’s stand in the top of the fourth. The Marauders loaded the bases twice with two outs and scored a run on a four-pitch walk by Worden.
Nugent capped the inning with a grand slam, blasting the scoreboard in left field with her big fly to give the Marauders an 8-1 lead.
“How clutch was that, man? That was sweet,” Kirby said. “We had a little hit here and there to get it done, and then that was a nice stamp. It was fun.”
From there, the Marauders added a run in the fifth as Makenzie Gee drove in Perry with a single. Mt. Vernon added three more runs in the seventh with a sacrifice fly by Gee and RBI hits by MacKenzie McCann and Parker.
Parker went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Fithian was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a double, while Gee drove in a pair and Perry set the table going 3-for-4.
Nugent, who was 2-for-4, closed out the game from the circle with 3.0 innings of three-hit ball. She struck out two.
The Marauders now play Lawrence North today at 5:30 p.m. in the first semifinal game. Arsenal Tech and Lawrence Central meet in the second semifinal at 7:15 p.m.
Mt. Vernon 12, Warren Central 4
WP: Victoria Whyde (4-4) LP: Naida Anne Stephens
HR: Kaitlyn Nugent (MV) 2B: Anelise Worden, Jadan Fithian, Sydnee Perry (MV); Aniah Baxter (WC)
Notables: Sydnee Perry 3-5, 2B, Makenzie Gee 2-4 2 RBI, Jadan Fithian 3-4 2 RBI, Cassidy Parker 2-5, 2 RBI, Anelise Worden 2-3, 2 RBIs, K. Nugent 2-4, HR, GS, 4 RBI, T. Whyde 4.0 IP, 4 K (MV).