Hit parade continues

It’s no secret why the Center Grove High School softball team has been scoring runs in bunches.

One only has to take a look at its lineup.

“You can’t relax your defense when we’re down to (the bottom of the order) on us because they’re going to hit the ball,” Trojans coach Russ Milligan said.

Junior catcher Maddie London, the No. 8 hitter in the lineup, was hitting .536 entering Monday’s game with visiting Franklin Central. Sophomore left fielder Maddie Keeley, in the ninth spot, was hitting .522. Milligan said he used a designated hitter for Keeley last season.

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Milligan said he has no plans to move London and Keeley up in the batting order. There’s no need because the Class 4A No. 8 Trojans (9-1) have plenty of other firepower. They had scored 92 runs and were batting .427 as a team prior to Monday’s action.

“There’s no weak sister in our lineup,” Milligan said. “You can’t just throw it down the middle against No. 9 (Keeley) because she was 4 for 4 (last Thursday against Avon).”

Senior first baseman Mallory Baker, who has signed to play for Purdue next season, was leading the team with a .611 average with two homers in the No. 3 lineup spot. Freshman right fielder Jordyn Rudd was hitting .576 in the No. 5 spot.

The Trojans graduated just one senior from last season’s 20-8 team.

“It helps a lot because now we have juniors and seniors who have played a full year with each other,” Milligan said. “They’re playing the game a lot more relaxed than we did last year.”

Center Grove downed then-No. 4 Avon 9-1 on Thursday, avenging a loss to the Orioles last season. The Trojans also have avenged last season’s losses to Greenwood, Whiteland and Terre Haute North.

“That’s us growing up a little bit and being a tighter-knit unit,” Milligan said. “We have a lot more confidence in ourselves.”

Senior pitcher Abbey Pratt has a 6-1 record with a 1.44 earned run average.

“She’s doing a phenomenal job pitching,” Milligan said. “Our defense is more sound, too. Last year we were kicking the ball around a lot. It was nerves because we were young.”

Good team chemistry has helped, Baker said.

“As a team, we’re having success because we have each other’s backs,” Baker said. “We practice a lot effective hitting. That helps us focus in the game when we need to move a runner.

“We’re being selfless, and we’re all helping each other out as teammates, which is producing more runs than we’ve had in the past.”

The left-handed Baker, who moved from catcher to first base during the 2014 season, had seen her average rise from last season’s .378 mark. She hit. .343 as a sophomore and .385 as a freshman.

“I’ve had a better start. I’ve had a lot more fun this season and played the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Baker said. “I’m making it fun with my teammates and having success actually makes my hitting better.”

Baker said she put too much pressure on herself last season as the most experienced varsity player.

“I felt I had a load on my shoulders to prove since there was only one senior and I was a junior,” she said. “I thought I had to show this is what is expected and I have to hit the ball. I pressed really hard and it didn’t work out for me.

“Now that there are other girls who have played at least one year of varsity, they are all starting to get the concept of what varsity softball is like.”

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Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.