Lady Pacers earn Sectional crown with win over Milan

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Rising high above the leftcenter field fence at the softball field at Hauser High School is a white watertower that hails the name of the community that it serves.

Hope.

Last Friday night, after a one day delay, the Switzerland County Lady Pacers parlayed an outstanding season into a Sectional championship with a 5-3 win over rival Milan. It is the first softball Sectional title for Switzerland County since 2006, and pushed the Lady Pacers into the Regional, where they played 13th-ranked Indianapolis Scecina on Tuesday night.

After struggling early in the year, Switzerland County got hot offensively and defensively, and rode a 13-game winning streak into Friday’s finale.

Switzerland County got all of the offense that it would need in the second inning, getting all five runs.

Trisha Smith opened the frame by getting hit by a pitch, and senior Catie Johnson followed that with a double to right that scored Trisha Smith with the first run of the game. Becca Sittloh then reached after laying down a sacrifice bunt; and when Brittany Bright walked, the bases were loaded for Hailee Smith.

The senior came through, drilling a single that scored two runs to make the score 3-0.

Brittany Bright then scored the inning’s fourth run on a wild pitch; and Hailee Smith then scored the final run of the stanza when Hayley South ripped a triple to the gap.

From there things were turned over to the Switzerland County defense – and to the right arm of senior pitcher Becky Turner, and both did their job to secure the win.

Milan made it interesting late, as the conference champions and defending Sectional champions, who scored two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth; but Becky Turner’s pitching performance was just too dominant, working her way out of jams throughout crucial periods in the game.

In the seventh, Milan made one last stand, putting the winning runs on base, but Becky Turner blazed pitches past Milan’s Ashley Ahaus, and when the Lady Indian struck out, the Lady Pacers erupted in jubilation in the center of the field.

“Wow,” was all head coach Steven Konkle could say as he dried off from a bath of ice water complements of his team. “Had one of those break out innings against a good team, then held on and battled through some struggles at times. The kids went out and challenged them and good things happened.”

He also had high praise for his senior pitcher, who came through again when the pressure was on.

“Becky Turner has been in big places her whole career,” the coach said. “She’s pitched an amazing May. She struggled at first – we all did as we tried to blend as a team – and she just came into it and we haven’t looked back.”

As with any successful program, Coach Konkle pointed to the entire team and its effort in claiming the Sectional crown.

“The whole team came through at different times,” he said. “Hayley South made some big plays at shortstop. Trisha Smith started off an inning and got things started, and the bottom part of the order got on base for us and the top of the order put the ball in play. I’m just happy with everybody.”

If there was a turning point in the season, the coach points to a game against Madison Shawe when the Lady Hilltoppers came to Switzerland County and the Lady Pacers, “made a lot of errors and didn’t play well”, according to their coach.

“We had a lot of players pouting and worrying about their personal statistics and what they were doing,” Steven Konkle said. “I sat the team down afterwards and said, ‘Listen, I read something today that said success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom, and you’re pretty close’.”

The coach said he then left the remainder of the season in the hands of the team themselves – and things took off from there.

Since then?

“I haven’t been doing much coaching,” Steven Konkle laughed. “They’ve taken this on themselves and done the things they’ve had to do and they think they can win every game. I am so proud of this team, they’ve come so far.”

And that water tower and its message?

“You need to know that whenever I had a doubt on the field before this game started, I looked up and I saw that word and I thought, ‘it’s okay’,” Coach Konkle said. “Just let them play and enjoy it and that’s what we did, and they survived.

“And they’re Sectional champions.”