So much for the sophomore jinx.
Abby Herbst made an instant impact on the Center Grove softball program as a freshman last spring, batting a team-high .519 while also serving as the team’s No. 1 pitcher. Amazingly, she’s been even better this year.
Not surprisingly, so have the Class 4A No. 2 Trojans, who take a 27-1 record into tonight’s regional game at Shelbyville.
Herbst ranks second on the team with a .634 batting average and 46 runs batted in, and thanks in part to her uncanny ability to hit balls to the opposite field, she has a team-high 18 doubles among her 52 hits.
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In the pitching circle, the sophomore is 15-0 with an earned-run average of 0.86, and she has struck out 101 batters while walking just 13.
“She’s a triple threat,” Center Grove coach Russ Milligan said. “She can pitch very well, she can hit a ton and she’s a great first baseman. So she’s an invaluable player for us.”
Milligan says that while he wouldn’t classify Herbst as a dominating pitcher (she averages slightly less than one strikeout per inning), she is a highly effective one — “a team pitcher,” the coach said.
Herbst is fine going along with that description.
“I’m definitely just a spot pitcher,” she said. “I move the ball, I hit my spots, and I like to get the hitters to roll into ground balls. That’s just been my thing since I was little.
“I know if I throw it on the corner and they get it in play, that my defense is going to make the play for me.”
Herbst attributes a great deal of her pitching success to junior catcher Jordyn Rudd — and the two are an equally lethal duo at the plate. With Herbst batting in the No. 4 spot behind her, teams are less willing to pitch around Rudd, who is among the state leaders with a .670 batting average, 14 home runs and 56 RBIs.
“People don’t try to pitch to them,” Milligan said, “but at some point you have no choice.”
In a few years, that battery will be split up and playing against each other. Rudd is verbally committed to Northwestern, and Herbst gave a pledge last July 4 to play at Wisconsin.
“I got there, and I fell in love with the campus, I fell in love with the coaches,” Herbst said. “It was just such a family atmosphere.”
Opposing coaches would be more than happy to see her head off to Madison now. Unfortunately for them, Herbst still has more than half of her high school career in front of her.
Today’s softball regionals
Center Grove at Shelbyville, 7 p.m.
Edinburgh at Hauser, 7 p.m.
A quick look at today’s area regional matchups:
Class 4A No. 2 Center Grove (27-1)
at Bloomington North (15-5)
Head to head: The Trojans won a May 3 meeting in Bloomington, 4-3, in eight innings.
Players to watch: Center Grove — Hanna Burris, Abby Herbst, Jordyn Rudd; Bloomington North — Deborah Jones, McKenzey Ridge, Kaycee Wisley.
Notable: Rudd ranks in among the state’s top four players in batting average (.670), home runs (14), RBIs (56) and on-base percentage (.722).
Up next: Winner advances to Saturday’s Bedford North Lawrence Semistate.
Class A No. 8 Edinburgh (20-5)
at No. 3 Hauser (24-3)
Head to head: The Jets won each of their regular-season meetings with the Lancers by one run, 8-7 and 3-2, in early April.
Players to watch: Edinburgh — Sidney Beier, Maddi Clark, Bailey Woodall; Hauser — Hunter Crain, Hailey Lange, Tessa Sims.
Notable: Sims, a junior pitcher, has a career postseason record of 14-1. She led the Jets to a state title as a freshman in 2015.
Up next: Winner advances to Saturday’s North Daviess Semistate.