NEW MARKET – Southmont’s softball team will be looking to turn a very good season into a great season as they start sectional action Tuesday.
The Mounties bring a 15-5 record into the postseason, and they finished the Sagamore Conference with a 10-4 record, good for third place. The 10 conference wins is the most in school history.
That is very good. The conference finish is the best since 2014, when they also finished third.
Things become great if South can capture a sectional crown, which would be their second in three seasons.
They have drawn a bye for the 2A, sectional 38 first round, and will take on Clinton Prairie Tuesday. One win gets them into the championship game.
The draw also put the rest of the field on the other side of the bracket.
“It’s a very tough sectional,” Mounties coach Dan Taylor said. “Seeger, Western Boone and Delphi have all had good seasons. We have an advantageous draw with the bye. We just need to put two great games together.”
The Mounties have plenty of players to lean on for those two great games.
Things start with Macie Shirk.
The senior leads with her bat, and with her pitching.
She leads the Sagamore Conference in three categories: slugging, RBIs and home runs. The 11 long balls has tied the school record. She is in the top eight of the other three major categories – batting average, runs scored and on-base percentage.
On the mound, she is in the top seven of the three major pitching categories: wins, strikeouts and earned run average. She and her rosin bag, named ‘Sally,’ who made an appearance in the Lebanon game and dried out the sweaty pitcher’s hand, have been at the center of this team’s success.
“Our seniors will play a big part in our post-season success,” Taylor said. “If our big four play well, that should help us be in a good position.”
Those other three seniors, Elizabeth Conkright, Taylor Grino and Hanna Nichols, have full resume’s heading into the tournament.
Nichols has nearly a perfect fielding record behind the plate and is second in the conference in stolen bases. She is in the top eight of all eight major offensive categories.
Grino and Conkright are each in the top 10 of one category. They are part of a Southmont offense that is hitting .407 on the year and has stolen 102 bases. The Mounties have seldom had trouble putting runs on the board.
Chesea Veatch, a junior, leads the Sagamore in hitting and on-base percentage, and is in the top 11 of those eight offensive categories.
There is also underclassmen contributions from the likes of juniors Brady Spencer and Lillie Odum, sophomore Camden Dinius and freshman Anna Stokes, who finished second in the batting average battle in the conference to teammate Veatch.
“We have played at a high level often this season,” Taylor said of the squad. “If we can play at that level, we think we have a good shot at the title.”
South rolled off an 11-1 streak in the middle of the season, putting up some impressive numbers offensively. They come into the tournament having scored exactly 200 runs, with 246 hits. Their 21 home runs is a long way past the old season record. There is a total of 65 extra-base hits. The gloves have also been in top form, as the Mounties bring a .923 fielding percentage into the post-season.
The tournament is being played at Southmont. The first round game between Seeger and Delphi is tonight, and that winner plays Western Boone Tuesday after the South game. The championship game is scheduled for Wednesday.
Southmont defeated Clinton Prairie in the opening game of the season. The Mounties have not played Seeger or Delphi this season, and split their Sagamore Conference series with Western Boone, with each team winning on the road late in the game.
The Stars put the Mounties out of last year’s tournament with a first-round win, on their way to a sectional championship.
“Last year’s loss (in the sectional) to Western Boone still bothers us,” Taylor said of the conference and sectional rivalry. “I think we would like a shot at redemption.”
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