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Hunter's gem halts Knights against Norse

PITCH: Northfield's Abby Hunter fires a pitch during the Norse's game against Southwood on Friday.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

With a sectional battle looming in the near future, the Norse softball team wanted to make a statement against Southwood on Friday.

While it wasn’t as strong a statement as head coach Mike Holley, it was strong enough to give the Norse a convincing win and a sweep of Wabash County foes for the week with a 5-0 result.

“We’ve got them in the first round of the sectional,” Holley said. “We don’t want to give them the thought that they could play with us. That’s what I meant by ‘make a statement.’ Make a statement that we are the better team no matter when we play.”

Entering the week with a 5-7 mark overall and a 2-3 record in Three Rivers Conference (TRC) play, the Norse not only righted the ship but did so in dominant fashion. After 10-0 wins against Manchester on Monday and Wabash on Wednesday, both in five innings, Friday’s 5-0 win marked 17-straight innings without allowing a run, all against Wabash County foes. The win also completes a sweep against Wabash County teams on the year.

“It’s a big week,” Holley said. “We’ve really been struggling hitting the ball up until this week and this week we’ve hit the ball quite a bit. That’s what we’ve been working on is just hitting the ball.

“You’re always judged by the county and where you finish. Maybe even more than in the conference. It’s always nice to be there (at the top).”

Northfield did all its scoring in the first and last inning of the day. With the game moved to Northfield due to poor field conditions at Southwood, the Norse were the visitors on their home field and started out fast.

Ally Keaffaber doubled with one out in the game before Abby Hunter knocked her in with an RBI double. Kyra Kennedy doubled the lead with an RBI single, giving the Norse an early 2-0 cushion.

Hunter’s dominance on the mound meant the two-run lead would be more than enough. Southwood’s first hit did not come until the third inning on a two-out single from Makenlie Lambert. One pitch later, though, Lambert would be thrown out attempting to steal second.

Southwood had another single in the fourth inning but the Norse would turn a double play as Hunter faced the minimum into the fifth inning.

Still trailing by just two runs, Southwood’s biggest rally of the night came in the bottom of the sixth. Lambert and Kassity Simpson would notch one-out hits before a groundout by Maddie Turner brought MaKenna Pace to the plate with two outs.

The Norse opted to intentionally walk the slugger and the bet paid off as Tabitha Thomas flew out to center field on the next pitch to end the inning.

Northfield began tacking on insurance runs in the top of the seventh, starting with a single from Kennedy before Bailey Burcroff reached on an error. Elise Gottschalk singled in Kennedy before scoring her own two batters later on a throwing error. Emma Hoover’s RBI double brought in Kenzie Baer.

Hunter slammed the door shut on the night, sitting the Knights down in order to end the game. The sophomore needed just 70 pitches for the complete-game win, allowing just five hits while striking out two and walking one. Hoover finished 4-for-4 with an RBI while Hunter, Kennedy, Gottschalk and Faye Satterthwaite all had two hits apiece.

Hunter and Kennedy each knocked in a run while Kennedy, Keaffaber, Gottschalk and Baer scored a run apiece.

Lambert and Simpson each had two hits for Southwood while Kayla Mays went 1-for-3. Lambert took the loss, allowing 15 hits and five runs, all earned, on three strikeouts and a walk.

Northfield improves to 9-7 overall and 5-3 in the TRC. Southwood falls to 7-7 overall and 3-5 in the conference.