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Cubs fall in pitchers’ duel

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Tournament-host Franklin ran into a buzzsaw of a pitcher in Tuesday’s Class 4A softball regional.

The Grizzly Cubs dropped  a tough 1-0 decision against Bloomington South.

The Panthers’ Olivia White pitched a masterful one-hitter, retiring 21 of 22 batters. The game’s only run was unearned, coming in the top of the second inning.

Franklin coach Joe Paszek said the loss was a tough one for his team because of what was at stake — a trip to the semistate.

“Pitching was good both ways. We started off a little shaky,” he said. “We haven’t had three errors in a game for a while, had some nerves there. We just never got our bats going.

“I give their pitcher credit for doing really well.”

White and Franklin pitcher Olivia Paszek were locked in a pitching duel. White had impressive velocity and movement on her pitches, retiring the first 14 batters she faced before a bloop hit in the fifth inning by Potter. She then closed out the game by retiring the final seven batters.

Franklin did get some solid contact the second time through the order, with a number of fly balls to the outfield and sharply-hit grounders, but White was ultimately very effective.

“We had better looks the second time around,” Joe Paszek said. “I thought we were more patient after we had chased some bad pitches the first time through.”

Despite taking the loss, Olivia Paszek may have been more overpowering on the mound than her counterpart. The senior left-hander didn’t allow a ball to be hit out of the infield until a single in the top of the seventh, adding 11 strikeouts, as well, with a fastball that seemed to get more effective as the game went on.

She had pitched out of trouble after an ominous start to the game. She made a wild throw to allow the lead-off hitter for the Panthers to reach second base, with the No. 2 hitter in the lineup reaching on an infield hit, but she retired the next three hitters on a ground out, strikeout and pop out to escape the inning unscathed.

The Panthers managed to push across a run in the second without hitting a ball out of the infield after a walk, an infield hit and an error to make it 1-0. Paszek again pitched out of a jam with the help of a good throw by catcher Baleigh Potter to cut down a runner at third.

Paszek retired 13 batters in a row at one point and was never threatened again.

The strong pitching meant the game was played at a rapid pace, concluding in just one hour and 19 minutes.

Joe Paszek gathered his team in left field shortly after the final out was recorded and gave the teary-eyed group an encouraging word.

“We had too good a season to criticize this game,” he said. “It’s a pretty emotional time for them, so I looked at them all and said never get too high and never get too low.

“We had a good year, and I have no regrets.”

Franklin outfielder Stephanie Janczak said the squad was naturally disappointed with the result but will be able to see the whole season as a positive experience.

“We did things this year we weren’t expected to do,” she said. “The loss stinks and we’re sad about it, but we’re all happy we made it here, so the sting will go away in time.”

Janczak also summed up her feelings about the experience of competing on the team this year.

“I’ve not only learned a lot about softball but learned a lot about life. It’s been a privilege,” she said. “If you keep working hard, good things will happen, and it will pay off later in life. I’ve loved it, and I’m going to miss it a ton.”

The game was the final contest for seniors Olivia Paszek, first baseman Grace Paszek, Stephanie Janczak and second baseman McKenzie Writt.

Bloomington South (18-8) advances to the Center Grove Semistate.

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