Call them giant killers or a team of destiny if you want, but one thing is for certain:
For the first time since 1999, you have to call the Franklin Community High School softball team sectional champions.
The Cubs received an excellent pitching performance from Olivia Paszek and clutch baserunning in the bottom of the seventh inning from freshman Krystal Scott to eke out a 1-0 win against New Palestine in the title game of the Class 4A Franklin Sectional.
Wednesday’s victory was the squad’s second consecutive defeat of a ranked team. The Dragons were No. 5 in Class 4A, while Franklin defeated eighth-ranked Franklin Central in Tuesday’s semifinal.
“It’s amazing. In my four years I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” an emotional Olivia Paszek said in the midst of the team’s postgame celebration on the diamond. “I had a little extra this evening. We really wanted to win, and I didn’t want to let them score any runs.”
Paszek was locked in a pitching duel throughout the evening with New Palestine’s Kaylin McMurray.
Paszek had excellent velocity and control on the night, striking out four, allowing just five hits and no walks with just two runners reaching scoring position on the evening.
This despite it being her third consecutive day pitching.
“I’m proud of what she did, pitching three straight days,” Franklin coach Joe Paszek said of his daughter’s performance. “It’s a challenge to do that, but she stepped up to the challenge.”
With McMurray also pitching well, it’s no surprise the winning run came for the Grizzly Cubs without a ball being hit out of the infield.
Gabi Terhune led off the bottom of the seventh for Franklin with an infield hit. Katelynn Kiemeyer then bunted pinch-runner Krystal Scott to second base. McKenzie Writt hit a bouncing ball to shortstop and Scott, hesitating for just a moment when the fielder made the play, bolted to third and reach safely on the ground out.
On the next pitch, the ball got away from the catcher (ruled a wild pitch) and Scott darted for home to slide across with the winning run.
Joe Paszek credited Scott with applying an important lesson learned.
“In a regular season game this year, we had this exact same circumstance where she was the winning run and the ball got away, and she didn’t run,” he said.
“Krystal’s a freshman and she waited for someone to tell her to run that time. She learned her lesson that day. She got chewed a little bit for it then, but she learned the lesson and today she just ran and we won.”
Scott said a combination of instinct and quick thinking helped her on the two base-running plays.
“My conscience just told me to go with it, so I just went,” she said of the move from second to third base. Then, about running to home plate, she added, “I was thinking I was the winning run and I had to get there.”
The closest New Palestine came to scoring was in the top of the sixth inning.
Having strung together a pair of two-out hits to place runners on first and third, Adie Lorsun hit a ball to shallow right field. Senior right fielder Stephanie Janczak covered a lot of ground to make a running catch and end the inning.
“I just wanted to catch the ball,” Janczak said. “I knew there were runners on and that my job is catch any ball that is hit to me. When it happened I didn’t really think. I just knew it was crucial and I caught the ball.”
Janczak said the team believed going into the sectional that it could win, despite the lofty status of some of the opposition.
“Going into the tournament we knew our fundamentals were really good. We’ve kept getting better every practice, and we’ve been doing that every single game, improving,” she said. “We strived to just play good defense and get timely hits, and we were able to win, and I’m so happy that’s what happened.”
The sectional title is Franklin’s third in school history, its first since 1999 and first as a Class 4A program.
Paszek noted that the star pitcher for the previous championship, Shannon Carson (now Shannon Hicks), is presently Olivia Paszek’s pitching coach.
Franklin will next host the regional, playing its semifinal game Tuesday.