With three teams ranked in the top 10 assigned to the Class 4A Franklin Community softball sectional, perhaps few were counting on the unheralded Grizzly Cubs to play for the championship.
But that’s exactly what will take place this afternoon.
Franklin (16-9) reached the title contest in one of the strongest — if not the strongest — sectional fields in all of Class 4A by knocking off No. 8 Franklin Central 4-1 on Tuesday.
“We just wanted to come out and get the job done,” said senior McKenzie Writt. “It’s a new experience, and it feels great.”
Writt helped anchor an infield that pretty much played flawlessly throughout.
She was all over the place from her position at second base in the infield and outfield, making four putouts and assisting on one against a Flashes team that was desperate to score after falling behind 4-0 in the second inning.
Writt, hardly the tallest member of the Franklin roster, even stabbed a high line drive with a perfectly timed leap to keep Franklin Central scoreless in its first time at bat.
“McKenzie Writt starred defensively for us. Katelynn Kiemeyer made some nice plays too,” said Cubs coach Joe Paszek. “We’ve improved on defense every game this year.”
Writt also aided her teammates in that second inning when she drove in Franklin’s third run with a bases-loaded single after third baseman Kiemeyer brought in the host’s second run on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded.
Franklin added its fourth run when senior pitcher Olivia Paszek singled in Kiemeyer off Flashes pitcher Shelby Herron, who had to come in to pitch that inning after working all 14 innings in Franklin Central’s marathon win against Greenwood on Monday.
“I have to give her (Herron) a lot of credit after pitching 14 inning yesterday and then coming back with six more innings today,” said Joe Paszek.
Though Herron gave up just four hits in her stint, the damage had already been done to the Flashes, who not only had to overcome a four-run deficit but had to overcome an emotional and physically taxing first-round battle the previous afternoon.
Franklin Central outlasted sixth-ranked Greenwood but couldn’t get the best of senior Olivia Paszek.
Showing an effective drop ball and change-up, the senior limited the Flashes to four hits, struck out six batters, allowed just one walk and gave up just one run on a RBI sacrifice fly by Taylor Wilson in the fourth inning.
The Flashes (22-4) scratched out a hit in the sixth inning and produced two more singles in the seventh before Paszek ended it with her final strikeout.
“When Franklin Central started hitting the ball, I got worried a little bit,” said Olivia Paszek, who improved her record to 15-6.
She didn’t have to worry when the Flashes’ last batter swung and missed to end the contest. The senior ace and her teammates were, of course, all smiles.
“I’m really proud of my team the way we’ve been able to come all this way because we’ve never been here before,” she said. “We’ve never been in the championship game of the sectional.”
In the Class A softball sectional at Hauser, Edinburgh blanked Southwestern (Shelby), 1-0, on Tuesday night.
With the win, the Lancers (14-9) advance to the championship game against the host Jets at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Freshman Bailey Woodall threw a one-hitter for Edinburgh, and junior Mariah Brown had the winning hit, a triple and RBI in the fourth inning.