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Panthers softball shuts down Norse offense

HIT: Northfield’s Addi Baker hits a pitch during the Norse’s game against Eastbrook at home on Friday.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

Northfield head coach Mike Holley knew games like Friday would come. With five freshman and seven total underclassmen in the lineup, Northfield was due for a game full of growing pains.

And Eastbrook took full advantage of the opportunity.

In her first career varsity start, Panther senior Ali Anderson was nearly untouchable, allowing one hit and one run in four innings of work. Mady McMillan pitched two innings of relief and mirrored her teammate, giving up one hit in two innings as the duo helped lead visiting Eastbrook to an 11-1 win in six innings.

“I think tonight’s loss really shows our inexperience, our freshmen,” Holley said. “If you look at what we had out there tonight, we had five freshmen, two sophomores, a junior and a senior and I think that just kind of showed tonight. We were facing some better pitching and it showed. We just need to see more pitching.”

From the opening pitch, Eastbrook was the aggressor on the night. The Panthers stranded two base runners in the first inning and, despite scoring a run in the second, left the bases loaded.

Kimberly Hodupp finally delivered the breakthrough hit in the third as her bases-loaded, two-out double plated three runs and burst open the floodgates for the visitors.

“We played a lot better than we did last night,” Eastbrook head coach Harold Coates said of his side, who were coming off a loss to Norwell on Thursday. “I thought we stayed focus. Our big problem a night ago is we didn’t play a full game and we made too many mental mistakes. Tonight, I think we corrected a few of those.”

One inning later in the top of the fourth, Kennedy Ross kept the offense rolling for the Panthers with a two-run homer over the left-field fence, pushing the lead to 6-0. Two batters later, McMillan lifted a solo shot over the centerfield fence.

Northfield finally started a rally in the bottom of the fourth. After being hit by a pitch, Addi Baker would advance to second on a wild pitch, move to third on a single from Abby Hunter and score on another wild pitch.

Kenzie Baer and Elise Gottschalk would each fly out, though, as the Norse were forced to settle with just the one run.

The guests immediately got the run back in the top of the fifth as Alli Hyatt’s single into center plated Hodupp.

The dagger came in the top of the sixth for Eastbrook. Helaina Walters’ single to lead off the inning brought up Kaili Fairbanks for a bunt. A throwing error by Ally Keaffaber on the bunt, though, allowed Walters to score and moved Fairbanks to third.

Hodupp would follow with a triple to score Fairbanks and Hodupp herself would score on a sacrifice fly by Sydney Lee, giving the Panthers an 11-1 advantage.

Baker would line a double to the fence in the bottom of the sixth, but the two-out hit would not be enough to extend the game on the night as the Norse fell via run rule.

Baker and Hunter had the lone hits on the night for Northfield while Faye Satterthwaite walked once for the lone other Norse baserunner on the evening.

“Ali Anderson did a really nice job,” Coates said. “She threw strikes and that’s really important for us. It gave our defense a chance to play behind her. Then Mady came in and finished it up. The pitchers did a really nice job today.”

For Holley, his side’s youth and inexperience led to a snowballing effect as the game went on.

“Just confidence. I could tell each time they came up to bat, it was just a little less, a little less,” Holley said as to where the struggles came from offensively. “I told them out there (after the game) you have to go up there thinking ‘I’m going to hit the ball’ instead of ‘I hope I hit the ball.’”

For Eastbrook, Ross finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs while Hodupp was 3-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs. Hyatt and McMillan each had two-hit nights with the latter crossing home three times.

“The girls, they were patient,” Coates said. “One thing we’ve been working on is trying to get pitches that we can hit and not chase. Tonight they were able to do that. Hopefully, they understand it makes a big difference.”

The Panthers improve to 2-1 with the win while Northfield falls to 2-2 with the loss.