Southsider Voice correspondent
Sectional play in softball became a minefield for most high-ranking teams on the Southside.
Lutheran, ranked No. 10 in Class A, was the only area team that claimed a sectional title. The Saints defeated Eminence 7-1 in the semifinals and then blanked Bethesda Christian 7-0 Friday to capture Sectional 58 on their home field.
Sophomore pitcher Blakelee Steeb hurled the shutout, and freshman Kimmie Kuehr drove in three Saints. Junior Morgan Keefer, the Saints’ lead-off hitter, and senior tri-captain Reid Olson, who followed her, kept their foes off-guard with their ability to get on base and their speed.
Lutheran’s mixture of youth and experience became more explosive when third-year coach Kent Carter moved Keefer into the No. 1 hitting spot.
“Her on-base percentage is huge, and her speed puts pressure on team defenses,” Carter said. “We have benefitted from good hitting from the top of our lineup and solid pitching.”
Lutheran (12-10) advanced to regional action and played No. 3 Clay City (18-9) in an opening-round game Tuesday, but the outcome was unknown at press time.
The Saints have been fueled by a demanding regular-season schedule that included only three games against Class A opponents.
“You have to bring your top game when you play Cathedral, Scecina and the 4A teams we play,” Carter said. “Those are tough teams and really tough games, but you learn from them.”
The Saints have given up only seven runs in their past eight games. Opponents are hitting a meager .243 against the Saints. Steeb leads the mound corps with a 1.78 ERA. “She has developed a good mix of pitches with speed and also has more control of her pitches,” he said. “She is hitting the corners.”
Kuehr (.418), Olson and senior tri-captain Delaney Arnold (.431) are leading the Saints at the plate with more than 20 hits apiece. Arnold, Steeb and Kuehr are first, second and third, respectively, in RBIs.
Four Southside teams wound up with 20 or more wins – 4A No. 6 Greenwood (22-5), No. 8 Franklin Central (22-5), No. 22 Roncalli (20-11) Center Grove (20-8) – but could not escape the clutches of competitive sectionals.
Franklin Central, after defeating Greenwood in 14 innings, fell one night later to eventual champion Franklin, 4-1. Center Grove fell to No. 5 New Palestine which lost the title match-up against Franklin.
Roncalli defeated Lawrence North 7-3 in its opener but was overpowered by Lawrence Central 9-4.
Perry Meridian (14-9), Beech Grove (10-13), Southport (9-16), Greenwood Christian Academy (7-5) and Manual (0-13) dropped their first-round games.