Perry Meridian and Southport split in the Battles of Perry Township on the diamond.
In the duels of cross-township rivals, the Falcons upended Southport 10-5 on April 5, but Southport’s fleet and heavy-hitting Cardinals evened it with a 16-7 win Friday.
On the baseball diamond, Perry Meridian’s second new-look year could be paying off for coach Jake Banwart. The Falcons lost eight games last year by one or two runs. They are 4-5 and handed Southport its first loss.
Perry Meridian’s Charlie Joyce, Calen Reed, Alex Hooten and Sean Thomas each drove in two runs against the Cardinals.
“We have worked a lot more on hitting, too,” Reed said. “I think we are a lot more confident now. Last year, a lot of teams didn’t expect us to be that close. This year, we’re out to surprise teams even more.”
Joyce, the team’s leading pitcher, sees the difference.
“We’re hungry and that’s an understatement,” Joyce said. “We’re focusing more on having fun with the game.”
Several Falcons have played together since youth baseball, including catcher Cameron Woods and teammate Bayley Arnold.
“This team is really together, more optimistic,” Woods said. “Everybody wants to be here and is glad to be here. We want to make a difference.”
This was the first time the two teams had not met as non-conference foes after the Falcons moved from Conference Indiana to the Mid-State. Southport is 3-5, but 1-0 in the league.
On the softball diamond, Southport continued to be alive at the plate. Eirney Hursey, pitcher Joanna Bear and Vanessa Miller each hit home runs. Hursey and Haley Matlock each scored three times. Bear drove in three RBIs.
“We are getting really solid, 1 through 9, at the plate,” Cardinals coach Scott Montgomery said. “As long as we keep hitting all through the lineup and our pitching and defense holds up, we will be fine.”
The Cardinals went into township rivalry game hitting a credible .358 as a team. Miller is hitting .630 and Matlock is .515 with four more teammates hitting over .400. Bear, a sophomore, is 4-1 on the mound.
Leading 2-1, the Cardinals exploded for five runs in the third with Bear’s 3-run home run serving as the big blast. Southport also picked up four runs in the sixth, one-half coming from Miller’s 2-run homer.
Determined Perry Meridian kept coming back. In the third, the Falcons scored three runs as Alyssa Neace drove in Eme Estes and then scored on an error. Kaitlin Gwin drove in Kennedy Thatcher with a double to centerfield. Gwin capped the Falcons’ scoring with a 2-run homer in the seventh; her third hit of the game.
The Falcons (1-6) slammed a reassuring 10 hits after entering the game with a dismal team batting average of .214. The Cardinals, after a horrid 0-3 start, have won four of their last six games.