PENDLETON — Stepping to the plate as a pinch hitter Monday evening, Jennah Ruddick had a chance to put Mt. Vernon ahead in its Sectional 9 quarterfinal contest with Greenfield-Central. As fate would have it, Monday also just so happened to be Ruddick’s 16th birthday.
On her Super Sweet 16, Ruddick delivered, driving a single to right to plate the go-ahead run in her team’s 4-3 win over the Cougars.
Top that, MTV.
The Marauders (9-16) face Richmond (19-11) today at 7 p.m. in the second Sectional 9 semifinal at Pendleton Heights. The host Arabians (19-9) take on New Castle (20-6) in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. The championship game is Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Following a single, a sacrifice bunt and an error, MV had runners at first and third with one out in the top of the seventh inning.
Up came the sophomore Ruddick to pinch-hit, earning the gig by impressing the coaching staff at batting practice in the days leading up the game.
“That I have to hit the ball and I’m up here for a reason,” Ruddick said of the thoughts running through her mind as she approached the batter’s box. “I need to do my job.”
Ruddick came through with a dart to right field, plating pinch runner Mackenzie Loehr for her second RBI of the year. Loehr was pinch-running for Kristin Connors, who singled.
“Most of the people of the in Hancock County would tell you I’m not a genius,” coach Mike McGill said with a laugh when asked about his decision to pinch-hit Ruddick. “She’s been having some good cuts during batting practice. And I talked to our assistant coach and she was the one that swung the bat the best during batting practice the day before yesterday, so that’s who we went with.”
Ruddick’s clutch swing was the last in a game’s worth of impressive situational hitting by both teams.
The Cougars (16-12) plated the game’s first two runs in the home half of the first inning thanks to a pair of freshmen.
Codey Miller started the frame with a single, then Morganne Denny stepped to dish and promptly lifted her third home run of the year over the right-field fence.
“Morganne may be the best freshmen hitter in the state, I would put that up against anybody,” G-C coach Jason Stewart said of his third baseman, leading the team in batting average (.511), hits (46), runs (28) and on-base percentage (.545) entering Monday. “The kid had an absolutely incredible season. If she continues to do what she’s doing, she can be very special.”
The two squads were scoreless over the next two innings before the Marauders took the lead in the top of four. After back-to-back singles by Kylie Lyons and Mikala Poe were followed by a strikeout and a pop-up, it looked as if the Cougars would escape the threat unscathed.
But, Connors ensured that wouldn’t be the case when she clubbed her first round-tripper of the season over the left-center field fence, handing the black and gold a 3-2 advantage.
“That’s another kid that’s a much better hitter in the batting cage than she is in the game,” McGill said of his sophomore third baseman. “When we get her to swing the bat on the field (in a game) the same way she does in the cage, we know she can do damage.”
G-C nearly tied the game in the fifth. A walk by Miller, a single by Denny and a wild pitch gave the Cougars runners at second and third with nobody out.
Darcie Huber then flared a pop-up into short right field, which was caught by MV’s Caitlin Lindman. Lindman made a strong throw home, but Miller slid in safely – or so everyone thought. The Marauders successfully appealed that Miller left the bag before the catch, and she was ruled out. Marauder starter Ambry Turpen then got a groundout to end the inning.
Stewart wasn’t sure if Miller departed third base prematurely.
“It’s hard for me to tell. I was watching the play. … I didn’t get to see where she was standing,” he said. “The (umpire) told me he didn’t think she got back to the bag.
“Now, how you can watch the catch and her at the bag too is kind of hard for me to say. He said she went back to tag but didn’t think she got all the way back. I can’t argue it. It is what it is.”
McGill, watching the sequence from his team’s third-base dugout, was more certain.
“It wasn’t bang-bang. I was sitting right next to third base,” he explained. “Jason asked me and I told him she was way early, a step early.
“It looked to me like the ball was going to fall. Their base runner, I think she thought it was going to fall. … When she took off again she was a good step early.”
The Cougars didn’t let the play affect them, however. With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Makayla Durick tied the game at three with a base hit to right field, plating pinch runner Laurenn Fish. After her double in the bottom of the 10th inning Saturday against Greensburg clinched the Cougar Classic Tournament, Durick again came through for the blue and gold.
“Makayla did a great job for us this year. She won the tournament Saturday and came up with a big hit today,” Stewart said. “She’s really impressed us with how she’s developed as a hitter.”
Turpen pitched around a two-out single by Huber to seal the game. The Butler recruit struggled with her control (four walks) but made the necessary pitches when she needed to Monday.
“Effectively wild, and she did make the one mistake, as did Darcie Huber,” McGill said. “They each made one mistake, and when you make mistakes against these good hitters, they’re going to (take advantage).”
MV, playing in Class 4A for the first after winning back-to-back 3A Sectional 26 crowns, turns its attention to Richmond, a squad they haven’t faced this year. G-C topped Richmond 16-0 Saturday in the Cougar Classic.
“I’ve watched them a couple times because I was looking ahead (to sectional),” McGill said. “They look like they got a nice little team. I did not expect them to beat Anderson, so that just tells you we’re going to have to come and play.”
The senior-less Cougars, winners of four straight coming into Monday, look to ahead to a promising 2015 campaign.
“Today we started nine freshmen and sophomores,” Stewart said. “We’ll have Brie (Whitaker) back who is probably our best infielder defensively and can help us out. She’s missed the last three weeks with mono(nucleosis).
“We have more coming back than anyone else in this sectional. it’s just a matter if the girls want to put the work in or not.”
Notes: New Castle topped Connersville 12-0 in the first quarterfinal Monday. Richmond beat Anderson 5-3. … Mt. Vernon has won five straight against Greenfield-Central, including a 14-1, six-inning victory at G-C May 2. … Saturday, MV topped New Castle to finish 3-4 in Hoosier Heritage Conference play, but also lost 4-1 to Elwood despite the Panthers tallying zero hits. … G-C was 0-7 in HHC games. … The Sectional 9 winner faces the Roncalli Sectional victor June 3 at Pendleton Heights in a one-game regional.
Class 4A Sectional 9 quarterfinal
At Pendleton Heights, Monday
Mt. Vernon 4, Greenfield-Central 3
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
MV (9-16) 000 300 1 — 4 7 0
GC (16-12) 200 001 0 — 3 7 1
WP: Turpen. LP: Huber (10-7).
MV: Connors 2-for-2, HR, 3 RBI, BB; Ruddick RBI 1B; Poe 1B, Turpen 7 IP, 3 K, 4 BB.
GC: Denny HR, 2 RBI; Durick RBI 1B; Huber 7 IP, 8 K, 1 BB.