FORTVILLE — The freshman with her name on the bat got it all started, then she helped finish it off.
Mt. Vernon (21-5) cleanup hitter Easton Wampler, who was named after the equipment she used to help win the Marauders a second straight softball sectional, hit a solo home run in the second inning to give her team a 1-0 lead.
She followed that up with a fifth-inning grand slam to help get the celebration started early.
“It’s not a family name, I got named after the softball bat,” Wampler confirmed.
The Marauders scored seven fifth-inning runs and beat Pendleton Heights 13-1 in a game called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
It wasn’t just Easton’s bat that was on fire.
As a team, Mt. Vernon hit five home runs on its way to the Class 4A Sectional 9 title and a regional championship game appearance on Tuesday. The Marauders will play host to Lawrence North at 6 p.m.
The Marauders beat Pendleton Heights in the 2019 sectional title game, 2-1, in nine innings. In both seasons, Mt. Vernon had lost to the Arabians during the regular season.
Pendleton Heights (19-11) had beaten Mt. Vernon 13-3 on May 6. One of the keys to the game was Arabians pitcher Ryann Norris entering in relief and shutting down the Marauders’ bats.
Norris got the start on Thursday, but the Marauders hitters looked better prepared against the Arabians’ ace.
“I think we had a lot more confidence because we had already faced her. We adjusted in practice and got better on what we needed to work on. That’s what got us here,” Wampler said.
Wampler hit the second pitch of the second inning out of the park. The next pitch, to senior Molly Buck, was also hit deep over the left-field fence.
Before the second inning was over, Mt. Vernon had a 4-0 lead and three home runs. Senior Mia Robbins hit a two-run shot later in the frame.
Senior Macey Cox opened the third inning with a homer and frosh Shelby Rakosky added an RBI-single. Rakosky’s hit was Mt. Vernon’s fifth of the game and first that wasn’t a home run.
Radosky helped get the big fifth inning going with another RBI-single.
Mt. Vernon’s first six hits drove in runs.
Radosky was the first of five consecutive hitters to reach base in the fifth. Drew Fithian followed with a hit and Robbins reached on a walk.
Riley Hasseld drove in a run with a single. Cox got an RBI on a bases-loaded walk and Wampler, after the second out of the inning was recorded, hit the grand slam over the left-field scoreboard.
Senior left-handed pitcher Maddie Taylor was taking care of business against a strong-hitting Pendleton Heights team, which came into the game second in the state in home runs with 64.
Taylor got out of jams in the first and third innings. Both times getting a strike out for the final out with Arabians in scoring position. Pendleton Heights left runners at second and third in the first inning and the bases loaded in the third.
“They were on fire and we couldn’t slow them down,” Pendleton Heights head coach Rob Davis said. “We felt like we were still in the ballgame (when down 6-1). We just didn’t get the two-out hits. That’s what champions are made of and we didn’t get them today.”
Taylor did not pitch in the regular-season meeting. On Thursday, she had five strikeouts, one in each inning, and gave up six hits.
Mt. Vernon came in seventh in the state in home runs. With the five on Thursday, they have 52 on the season.
“We came and we were ready,” Buck said. “We knew what we had to do and we sure did do it. We lacked on hitting last time so we brought it hard this time. It was a great win.”
Mt. Vernon head coach Veronica Kirby was pleased with how her team bounced back after the regular-season loss to their Hoosier Heritage Conference and sectional rivals.
“We’ve been working real hard in practice on our offense and making the adjustments we needed to hit her,” Kirby said. “I watched her a few times and was able to pick up a few things and we focused in on that. We weren’t going to let her beat us.
“It feels good. Not just the win, but for these girls. They’ve been through a lot, not playing last year. Having 10 seniors and knowing this is it for them, that’s a lot of emotion riding on this game. I’m just so proud of all of them and what they all bring to this team.”