Senior staff writer
“Forever in our hearts. Forever a Cardinal.”
Those heartfelt words were written on a poster by the Southport softball team in memory of assistant coach Steve Montgomery, who died of pancreatic cancer last week. The poster was taped to the Cardinals’ dugout and served as their inspiration during a spirited drive Friday and Saturday in the Marion County tourney.
The Cardinals, winners of only two games going into the tourney, defeated Pike 4-0 at Holder Field, short-circuited Speedway 6-0 and rallied against 4A No. 8 Franklin Central but lost 6-4 Saturday at Ben Davis.
“We’re using it (poster) as motivation,” Southport senior shortstop Shelby Hunt said. “ ‘Monty’ wanted us to always play hard. We’re doing this for him.”
Inspired, the underdog Cardinals fell one win short of reaching Monday’s championship game between No. 4 Roncalli and Franklin Central at Ben Davis, which has been postponed until further notice due to rain.
“We came out ready to play,” Southport coach Krystal Loomis said. “We came back ready to win it; we had a lot of heart, a lot of drive.”
Loomis took the reins Thursday in the absence of coach Scott Montgomery, who formed a father-son coaching duo at Southport a few years ago with Steve Montgomery until his death.
“We played a lot for ‘Mongo’; the girls wore their ribbons, and we had our poster,” Loomis said. “We did a lot in this tourney because we were trying to make him proud as he’s watching us now.”
In the semifinal against the Flashes, Hunt slammed a solo home run for a short-lived 1-0 lead in the first.
The Flashes took a 2-1 lead on back-to-back Cardinals errors in the first. They added one more run in the second on a successful double steal. Junior Claire Gilliland led off the third with a solo homer, and Shelby Herron and Katie Back each drove in a run for a 6-1 lead.
FC coach Kathy Stricker was relieved that the Flashes reached the title game but did not like her team’s lapses.
“We get a little complacent, and we have trouble shutting the door sometimes,” Stricker said. “We’ve been hitting the ball solid; we did that early but then we stopped. We have to be able to play hard to the end.”
FC defeated once-ranked Decatur Central 3-0 on a two-run double by Taylor Wilson and Gilliland’s solo homer.
Roncalli continued its unprecedented march through the tourney. The Rebels won each of their three tourney games by 10 runs or more. Scout Leffler led the Rebels against Beech Grove with two doubles and two RBIs while winning pitcher Mallory Marschke struck out nine in five innings.
The upset minded Hornets reached the quarterfinals by upsetting 1A No. 9 Lutheran 5-1 Friday behind Kaylee Kingston’s two-run homer and two RBIs by Cheyenne Sutt.
“We’ve mixed and matched all season, but we have found our best lineup,” Roncalli coach David Lauck said. “The sign of a good team is defeating the teams that we should beat; it’s a good sign of maturity and confidence and the girls learning their roles.”
Perry Meridian upended Ben Davis 2-1 Saturday on sophomore Makiah Thomas’ bases-loaded drive to right field that drove in Destinee Miles for the winning run to end the game.