Senior staff writer
Hard-hitting Center Grove, the reigning state champions, and senior-powered Franklin Central, the 2012 runner-up, are gearing up for another collision in the state softball tournament.
The nine seniors who provided clout last year and this year for longtime coach Kathy Stricker’s Flashes recently accomplished one of their goals for this season in winning the Marion County tournament.
“This is our first time winning this; it feels good,” said senior Delaney Thompson, who hit a grand slam in a seven-run fifth inning. “We’ve had a hard time in previous years getting past some teams.”
Thompson labeled her blast over the left center field fence as her biggest hit of the season. It iced an 10-4 triumph May 10 over rival Roncalli. The last time the Flashes won county was in 2011.
“The last one was a long time ago,” Stricker said. “They (seniors) had this goal from the get-go. They wanted the county.”
Roncalli and the Flashes (17-5) were tied at 2 until Franklin Central broke it open with seven runs in the fifth, all scored with two outs.
A rare error on a ground ball allowed two Flashes to score, and a single to right field by Taytum Schaney scored the third run. After Claire Gilliland was hit by a pitch, Thompson belted her fourth homer of the season.
A lot lies ahead for Franklin Central’s nine seniors, who provided most of the pop at the plate last year and lost a heartbreaking game by one run in the 2015 sectional against Center Grove.
“We’re on a roll that we need to be on,” Stricker said. “We’re hitting the ball well and were doing a lot of good things.
Four Southside teams are ranked in the state coaches poll with the softball tourney opening Tuesday. In Class 4A Center Grove is No. 3, Franklin Central No. 8 and Roncalli No. 11; 1A Lutheran is No. 16.
For several years the path to the 4A state championship has gone through reigning and six-time state champion Center Grove. Last year the Trojans escaped the sectional by defeating Greenwood 4-1, FC 3-2 and New Palestine 8-7 in nine innings.
Coach Russ Milligan’s Trojans (19-3) are on a roll. They are coming off the Johnson County tourney championship with a 16-hit, 5-0 win Saturday over Greenwood. The Trojans are batting .411 as a team with 17 home runs and an earned run average of 1.55. They are led by sophomore sensation Jordyn Rudd, .500 batting average and seven home runs, and senior Mallory Dallas, .514 and four homers. Freshman Abby Herbst (10-0) has a 0.97 ERA.
The Franklin Central Sectional, one of the toughest in the state, also includes No. 19 Franklin, Greenwood, Whiteland and Martinsville, which defeated Roncalli in the season opener.
The Flashes and Trojans are in opposite brackets and can not meet until the championship game.
The Rebels are in the six-team Ben Davis Sectional that also features No. 22 Decatur Central, Perry Meridian and upstart Southport, which is playing inspired softball in memory of their late coach, Steve Montgomery.
Roncalli (15-3) bounced back Saturday with an impressive 9-4 win over Carmel. Mainstays Jordan Jenkins, a sophomore, drove in two runs and pitched the first four innings before being relieved by senior Mallory Marsicek.
In 3A, Beech Grove is at Indian Creek and Manual is at New Palestine. And in Class A, Lutheran is at home for its sectional and Greenwood Christian Academy travels to Edinburgh.
At Ben Davis – Monday, 5:30 p.m., Decatur Central vs. Ben Davis, 7 p.m., Pike vs. Southport; May 25, 5:30 p.m., Monday’s winners, 7 p.m., Perry Meridian vs. Roncalli; May 26, 6 p.m. championship.
At Franklin Central – Monday, 6 p.m., Greenwood vs. Center Grove, 8 p.m., Franklin vs. Whiteland; Tuesday, 6 p.m., Monday’s winners, 8 p.m., Franklin Central vs. Martinsville; May 25, 6 p.m., championship.
At Indian Creek – Monday, 5:30 p.m., Northwest vs. Washington, 7:30 p.m., Beech Grove vs. Danville; Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., Monday’s winners; 7:30 p.m., Indian Creek vs. Greencastle; May 26, 6 p.m., championship.
At New Palestine – Monday, 5 p.m., Brebeuf vs. Chatard, 7 p.m., Herron vs. Manual; Wednesday, 5 p.m., Monday’s winners, 7 p.m., Marshall vs. New Palestine. May 26, 6 p.m., championship.
At Edinburgh – Monday, 5 p.m., Waldron vs. Edinburgh; Tuesday, 5 p.m., Morristown vs. Edinburgh; 7 p.m., Greenwood Christian vs. Monday’s winner; May 25, 6 p.m., championship.
At Lutheran – Monday, 5 p.m., Deaf School vs. Eminence, 6:30 p.m., Tindley vs. Lutheran; Tuesday, 5 p.m., Monday’s winners, 6:30 p.m., University vs. Bethesda Christian; Thursday, 5 p.m., championship.