Regional title is first in history as Lady Pacers defeat Scecina

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For the first time in school history, a Switzerland County team has won a Regional.

The Switzerland County Lady Pacer softball team earned the historic honor on Tuesday night with a 7-4 win over 13th-ranked Indianapolis Scecina – and they did it on the Lady Crusaders home field.

Again, the contest came down to outstanding pitching and defense, and two explosive innings that provided all of the offense that the Lady Pacers would need to advance to the Semistate for the first time.

Never before has a team from Switzerland County advanced out of the Regional round of a state tournament. Last year, Pacer cross country runner Clay Meyer won the Regional individual title; but this was the first time for a team.

And it was special.

Playing under blistering heat and sunny skies, Switzerland County got off to a fast start in the opening inning, as the visiting team got a walk from leadoff hitter Hailee Smith. After Hayley South hit a towering fly ball that the Scecina rightfielder managed to haul in, Maggie Armstrong singled to left, which advanced Hailee Smith to third.

Trisha Smith then hit a grounder to the Crusader second baseman, who tried to come home and cut off the run, but the swift Hailee Smith beat the throw to the plate, and Switzerland County had an early lead.

Catie Johnson then popped out to third; but Becky Turner lined a single to left that scored Maggie Armstrong, and the Lady Pacer bench and fans erupted in cheers.

Scecina placed runners on second and third in the bottom of the first inning, but again Becky Turner worked masterfully out of the situation, getting a put out from second baseman Brittany Bright to close the inning.

The second inning was huge for Switzerland County, as Becca Sittloh opened the inning by getting hit by a pitch; and Kali Carfield then hit a liner to center that the Scecina fielder misplayed, putting two on with no outs. Brittany Bright then laid down a sacrifice bunt, but the Scecina pitcher overthrew the first baseman, allowing Becca Sittloh to score.

Hailee Smith then singled to left to score Kali Carfield, and Hayley South’s single to right moments later scored Brittany Bright.

That was it for the Scecina pitcher, as a stunned Crusader crowd sat silently as the squad’s best pitcher walked away battered by the high-powered Lady Pacer offense.

With a new pitcher on the mound, Switzerland County then caught a break, as Maggie Armstrong flew out to right and Trisha Smith flew out to center, but Hailee Smith was not able to tag and score on either out.

With two outs and two important runs in scoring position, Catie Johnson picked up a critical infield hit that scored Hailee Smith, and when Becky Turner singled to right, Hayley South scored with the Lady Pacers seventh run of the game.

It would be all they needed.

Becky Turner sat the Scecina batters down in order in the bottom of the second, and suddenly the contest turned into a pitcher’s duel; as Switzerland County would continue to hit the ball hard, but would manage only two more baserunners for the remainder of the game.

Scecina got a run in the bottom of the fourth, two more in the bottom of the fifth; and a lone run in the bottom of the sixth; but each time the Switzerland County defense rose up when it needed to and stopped any potential rally.

The bottom of the seventh saw Scecina get a runner on with a walk, but Lady Pacer shortstop Hayley South made a diving snag on a liner, and as she raised her glove from the dust, Switzerland County had its first Regional title ever.

“Wow, again,” a smiling Coach Steven Konkle said, referring to his interview following Friday’s Sectional triumph. “First team Regional championship in team history, it’s pretty special. We have a tremendous team and tonight they gave a team effort. They scored seven runs against the 13th-ranked team in the state. If you would have told me we would score seven runs, I always felt that there was something special about seven, because I thought we would need at least six runs in the Sectional. We ran their pitcher out, then we faced their offense and we battled. They’re just a special team.”

He also praised his defense.

“Hayley South at shortstop was just great,” he said. “She’s just a tremendous athlete. She plays that position just all out and she covers a tremendous amount of ground.”

Switzerland County now heads to Ferdinand, Indiana, this Saturday, to face Frankton in the opening round of the Forest Park Semistate at 11 a.m. Frankton is 21-6 on the year, while the Lady Pacers are 19-8.

The second game on Saturday will feature top-ranked Linton-Stockton, who sports a record of 24-0; against 23-5 North Putnam. The winners will then square off on Saturday night with a trip to the State Championship on the line.

At this moment, there are only eight Class 2A softball teams left playing – four in the north and four in the south. Switzerland County is one of those eight.

“We’ll just keep playing as long as they’ll let us,” the Lady Pacer coach smiled.