Extra Innings, Extra Effort: Marauders win first softball sectional since 2013


FORTVILLE — With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the ninth inning, Mt. Vernon had equaled its base runners from the first eight innings.

Marauders head coach Veronica Kirby preaches to her team to take advantage of the opportunities, but against Pendleton Heights’ ace Jordan Benefiel on Thursday, those opportunities were few and far between.

Her team took advantage of this one and took it all the way to the program’s first sectional championship since 2013.

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Senior Samantha Bennett, one of only two seniors in the Mt. Vernon lineup, hit a fly ball to left field. It was deep enough for Riley Hasseld to tag up and score the go-ahead run.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mt. Vernon sophomore pitcher Karlee Franklin, who was pitching her own gem, got out of a two-on, two-out jam with her 12th strikeout of the game. It wrapped up a pitching duel for the ages in a 2-1, nine-inning win and captured the Class 4A Softball Sectional 9 championship at Mt. Vernon High School.

“We knew when we came out here we would have to play mentally strong,” Kirby said. “We knew we couldn’t get down if they scored first. We couldn’t get down if we made a mistake and we couldn’t get down if we didn’t get that hit when we needed it.

“We had to capture the opportunities when they came our way. We were able to string things together in that last inning. We got the walk. We got the bunt down. We had the sacrifice fly by Sammy Bennett to get the go-ahead run. That’s softball. When we play softball and execute like that, we can beat anyone.”

In the ninth, Hasseld led off with walk. Anelise Worden provided the sacrifice bunt and the Arabians chose to intentionally walk Sydnee Perry to set up a force out.

What the Arabians didn’t intend to do was walk Haley Kissee, too. It loaded the bases for Bennett.

“They walked Riley, Sydnee and Haley and I knew I had to get it to the outfield or get a hit so I could push the run in,” Bennett said. “I was taking deep breaths and it just felt right and the pitch was right there. It felt good.”

They didn’t just beat anyone on Thursday. They beat Pendleton Heights, fresh off a regular-season win over No. 1 Lake Central and ranked No. 4 in the state. The Arabians were the defending sectional champions, beating the Marauders 3-1 in last year’s title game.

The teams met in the regular season, too, but neither Benefiel or Franklin pitched. Pendleton Heights won that contest, 12-0, on May 8, also at Mt. Vernon.

With everything on the line, Benefiel and Franklin were outstanding.

There were only five hits the entire game, four by Pendleton Heights, but they had only two after the first inning. Benefiel finished with 17 strikeouts. Franklin had a stretch, after the two first-inning hits, of retiring 17 of 18 Arabians.

It was the Marauders that scored first. They did it with their only hit of the game.

The other senior in the team’s lineup, first baseman Chloee Yocum, took Benefiel deep with two outs in the third inning. Prior to the at-bat, Benefiel had retired the first eight, seven by strikeout.

“First off, I was nervous as heck,” Yocum said of her initial at-bat against Benefiel. “My stomach was going all crazy.

“After I got the two strikes, I knew she was going to throw me a rise-ball. She threw it. I knew it. It went flat and I let everything go on it.”

Mt. Vernon led 1-0 and were two outs away from ending the game in regulation when Pendleton Heights’ Amanda White extended the game with a home run to right-center field.

It didn’t rattle Franklin, as she struck out the next two hitters to send the game to extra innings.

“I knew (White) was coming up. It was a good pitch; she just got all of it,” Franklin said. “After that I knew I had to stay calm. I still had to do what I know how to do. We were still okay. It was tied, so I stayed calm and had to take it one pitch at a time.”

Franklin was calm, cool and collected.

She got of trouble earlier in the game. Pendleton Heights jumped on her quickly. Ally Hall hit a single up the middle with one out in the first. Kieli Ryan followed by hitting a deep ball to right field. It hit the top of the fence, but fortunatley for the Marauders it didn’t go over. It was a double and put runners on second and third. Franklin followed by striking out the next two to end the inning.

“She was amazing,” Bennett, the team’s catcher, said. “She was hitting her spots. The speed was there. Everything was there that we needed to win the game and keep Pendleton under control.”

Mt. Vernon (23-3) will play Tuesday in a Class 4A Regional contest at Indianapolis Cathedral. Pendleton Heights finished the season 23-4.

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Mt. Vernon 2, No. 4 Pendleton Heights 1 (9 innings)


PH (23-4);000;000;100;—;1;4;0

WP: Karlee Franklin (18-2). LP: Jordan Benefiel (18-4).

HR: Chloee Yocum (MV); Amanda White (PH). 2B: Kieli Ryan (PH) RBI: Chloee Yocum, Samantha Bennett (MV); Amanda White (PH).

Notables: Karlee Franklin 9 IP, W, 4-hitter, 12 K, Samantha Bennett 0-for 1, 2 BB, HBP, RBI (MV); Jordan Benefiel 9 IP, 1-hitter, 17 K; Kieli Ryan 2-for-3 BB, 2B (PH)