Turns out this ended up being my last game story as sports editor at The Republic, so I figured I might as well put it up.
Originally published in The (Columbus, Ind.) Republic, May 29, 2009
By Andy Proffet
ST. LEON — All Allie Piercefield was looking for was a base hit.
She got it, and Columbus North got a sectional title.
Piercefield’s two-run, one out single in the top of the third inning provided all the scoring 14th-ranked North would need to knock off No. 5 East Central 3-0 in Thursday’s sectional championship.
“I was just ready for a base hit,” said North’s sophomore right fielder. “You have to get those runs in.”
The game was scoreless after two innings as the Bull Dogs (21-2) were unable to take advantage of some uncharacteristic wildness by East Central’s ace, Amber Eckstein.
Two days after striking out 14 in a semifinal win over Columbus East, Eckstein opened Thursday’s game by walking North leadoff batter Sydnee Jackson and putting Cassie Loweth on base after hitting her with a pitch.
But Piercefield grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Redemption for Piercefield came two innings later, as Kylie Haley drew a walk, Emily Scheidt reached on an error and Loweth drew an intentional walk to load the bases.
Piercefield singled on a 3-1 count to drive in Haley and Scheidt.
“In a championship game … I think whoever scores first is at a big advantage, particularly when you’re in our position, where we’re the visitors,” said North coach Ron Horton.
While Eckstein (25-2) was inconsistent in the early innings, her counterpart, Loweth, was on a roll. The Indiana-bound senior had five of her seven strikeouts in the first four innings.
Loweth (14-1) worked out of a jam in the fifth thanks to a stellar defensive play by third baseman Jackson.
With two outs, the Trojans’ Coleen Hornbach singled, stole second, then reached third on a double by Amanda McQueen. But Jackson scooped Blaire Hornberger’s grounder out of the dirt and just made the throw to get her out at first.
Loweth sat the Trojans down in order in the final two innings, while Haley knocked in an insurance run in the top of the sixth when her triple scored pinch-runner Michelle Murphy.
“That was big when it went from two to three,” Horton said. “It takes all of their short game out, and they had a lot of speed and they like to use that slap and dash stuff, and all of a sudden that took that out of the equation.”
Taking the lead gave the Bull Dogs confidence on the field, Piercefield said.
“Not saying that there’s room for errors, but if you do make one, it’s comforting that you have runs there,” she said.
Now North waits to see who they’ll face in the Floyd Central Regional on June 6. The Bull Dogs will meet the winner of the Jennings County Sectional; the host Panthers will face either Jeffersonville or Floyd Central Saturday for the championship.