FORTVILLE — Even Rachel Davis can’t put into words where her home run power has suddenly emerged from.
“It’s kind of a new thing,” offered the junior second baseman. “I don’t know, it just happens.”
Davis clubbed her state-best eighth round-tripper of the season and drove in three runs for the Mt. Vernon softball team Friday night, helping the Marauders take down Greenfield-Central 9-5.
MV (7-7, 4-1 Hoosier Heritage Conference) has prevailed in three straight after dropping six in a row earlier this month.
G-C (9-4, 1-1 HHC) fell for the first time in three tries.
The offense has come around too. The Marauders managed just six runs in the last five games of their losing streak; they’ve now plated 28 runs in their last three contests.
“We were hitting the ball before (the win streak). Some of those losses were to ranked teams,” explained Mt. Vernon coach Mike McGill, whose team lost to a trio of 4A top-20 squads during its losing skid. “We do that on purpose. We are not concerned about our regular-season record, we’re concerned about getting our kids ready to play sectional and go on from there.”
Last spring, the black and gold started 6-6 before winning 16 of 18 to close its season, which included the program’s first sectional championship in a decade.
As for Davis, who has nearly tripled her home run total from last year (three) and is one RBI shy of surpassing her RBI count from 2012 (18), acknowledged that the tough schedule will work out for MV in the long run.
“Those first few games were really hard, but I think it’s going to get a lot easier for us,” she said. “It’s helping us now having faced better pitchers earlier.”
Entering Friday’s matchup, the Marauders looked to have their hands full against Cougar ace Ashley Whitaker, who brought a record of 7-1 with 80 strikeouts in 52 and a third innings with her to Fortville.
Whitaker did her part to put G-C ahead early, sending an RBI single up the middle to score Darcie Huber in the top of the first.
But, the hosts responded in the home half. Rachel Houck walked, moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on Ellie Balbach’s bloop base hit to left.
The Marauders plated another run in the second on Houck’s sharp single to right, scoring Mikala Poe.
Three more scored for Mt. Vernon in the third on Poe’s RBI single and Emily White’s two-run double to left.
With her team up 5-1 entering the bottom of the fourth, Davis notched what would be the game’s deciding runs in striking fashion.
With pinch-runner Morgan Stricker standing on second for Balbach, who doubled, Davis fell behind in the count 1-2 to Whitaker.
On the next pitch, Davis turned on a fastball in a big way, sending a towering shot that not only cleared the left-field fence, but landed over the backstop on the JV field.
Each Marauder takes at least 100 swings in each practice, but Davis puts in more work than is required of her. That extra exertion is paying off, as she came into Friday’s game hitting .476 with a slugging percentage of 1,000.
Davis acknowledged that her fourth-inning dinger was the farthest ball she’s ever hit. Her coach was among those impressed by her long ball.
“I’m really proud of Rachel Davis. She’s on a streak like none I’ve seen in some time,” offered McGill, before turning in the direction of the JV field. “That ball had to have been hit 300 feet.”
Greenfield-Central did not go quietly, scoring three in the top of the fifth on a wild pitch and bookend RBI singles by Alyssa Walls and Deena Miller.
The Cougars cut the MV lead to 7-5 in the sixth on Whitaker’s second hit of the night. The St. Joseph’s (Ind.) recruit finished 2-for-2 with two walks, reaching base in all four plate appearances.
Yet, an RBI double by Davis and a G-C error forced in two additional MV runs in the bottom of six, pushing the home team’s lead to 9-5.
Whitaker garnered her second loss of the year, allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits. She walked two and struck out four. Friday was the first time all season Whitaker surrendered over three earned runs in a contest and failed to fan at least six batters.
“I’m not going to blame it on her, she’s carried us all year. She missed spots. It’s going to happen,” Greenfield-Central coach Jason Stewart said of Whitaker. “You’re not going to be perfect every night out.
“(Mt. Vernon) is a very good hitting team. If you make a mistake, they’re going to hit it.”
Only Walls and Whitaker recorded at bats in last season’s 8-3 loss to MV, and Stewart’s already green squad has been hit hard by the injury bug lately. The latest victim is Stewart’s normal No. 5 hitter, senior Brittany Wasson, who is out with a concussion.
“For the inexperience we have, we battled. There’s probably not another team with less experience in the state than us,” Stewart offered. “For a lot of these girls, tonight was the first big, big game they’ve played in.
“To get down 7-1, cut it to 7-5 and have a chance, I was proud of them.”
For McGill and his Marauders, any chance at claiming a share of the HHC crown likely comes down to Thursday’s home tilt with Pendleton Heights (15-2, 3-0 HHC). MV topped the Arabians 6-4 last year.
“It’s shaking out like it last year,” McGill said of HHC race, which ended in a three-way tie between MV, PH and New Palestine in 2012. “Hopefully we can make it a three-way tie if we can beat Pendleton Thursday.”
Notes: MV is at 4A No. 8 Noblesville (6-1) Monday. G-C is at Rushville (1-7, 0-3 HHC) at 10 a.m. and Batesville (3-3) for two at 3:30 p.m. today. … Houck (2-for-3, two runs), Balbach (2-for-2, double, run) and Poe (2-for-4, two runs) also contributed to the MV offense. … Ambry Turpen allowed four runs, walked four and struck out six in four and two-thirds innings to improve to 4-3.
Mt. Vernon 9, Greenfield-Central 5
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
GC (9-4, 1-1 HHC) 100 031 0 — 5 9 2
MV (7-7, 4-1 HHC) 113 202 X — 9 10 0
Two or more hits: Whitaker, Walls, Miller (GC); Houck, Balbach, Davis, Poe, White (MV). 2B: Balbach, Davis, White (MV). HR: Davis (MV). SB: Miller (GC). LOB: GC 10, MV 7.
WP: Turpen (4-3). LP: Whitaker (7-2).