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Greenwood’s season ends with tough loss

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It was a shame someone had to lose this game.

But for the longest time, it appeared neither Greenwood nor Franklin Central could or would win their marathon of a Class 4A softball sectional first-round clash at Franklin.

However, the sophomore-laden Flashes, ranked eighth in Class 4A, broke through in the 14th inning and knocked off the No. 6 Woodmen 4-2.

“What a battle,” Franklin Central coach Kathy Stricker said. “It was a great battle.”

The Flashes (22-3) crossed the plate twice in the 14th when catcher Victoria Luster broke the 2-2 deadlock with an infield single, scoring Delaney Thompson, who had singled. Franklin Central added an insurance run when Jessica Santangelo doubled in pinch runner Nicole Austin.

The higher seeded Woodmen were last up, but the re-energized Flashes responded with a double play, and standout pitcher Shelby Herron forced a fly out to end it.

On the day, a frustrated Greenwood offense left 13 runners on base.

“We had numerous opportunities to score and just didn’t get the job done,” Woodmen coach Stephanie Senac said, speaking somberly in the disappointment of a sterling season suddenly concluded. Her team finished 22-5.

Before the decisive inning, both teams seemingly matched each other move for move. And both pitchers endured going the distance under the scorching pressure of a single-elimination tournament.

Franklin Central got on the scoreboard first in the third inning when Raegan Sparks hit a long double to right-center field to score teammates Claire Gilliland and Brooklyn Hutcheson, who earlier reached on a walk and base hit, respectively.

But the Woodmen answered immediately in the bottom of the frame when catcher Davis Carter delivered a big two-out single to bring in Joslyn Leverett and pinch runner Haley Utigard.

“That definitely fired up the team,” Senac said. “I was proud of the way Davis stepped up as a senior.”

Greenwood had its best chances to break the deadlock in both the fifth and seventh innings, but both threats were thwarted by the Flashes’ Herron (12-1), backed up by an ironclad infield.

An odd play almost did in Franklin Central during the seventh when infielder Ryan Bauer of the Woodmen hit a roller up the middle with two outs and two runners on. Pinch runner Emily Ott, the lead runner, held up at third base and pinch runner Utigard almost caught up to Ott at third.

Flashes catcher Victoria Luster had the ball in hand but, apparently not wanting to throw the ball away in such a tight game, didn’t try to catch Utigard in a rundown. The play kept the inning barely alive for the Woodmen.

But Franklin Central was picked up again by Herron, who got Carter to ground out to third to end the inning.

The Flashes escaped trouble in the fifth when the sophomore Herron, refusing to knuckle under, got Carter to strike out swinging after senior pitcher Brittany Gray and Bauer both reached with two-out singles.

Franklin Central threatened to score a go-ahead run in the 11th when Elena Horen singled to left and advanced to second on a wild pitch. But Gray got Thompson out swinging.

Going into the 14th inning, Gray had not allowed the Flashes to reach third base since they scored in the third. The Flashes almost did that and more in the 12th, but Gray got Gilliland to foul out to the catcher, stranding Luster at second and Santangelo at first.

Gray finished the day with 16 strikeouts, finishing her season with an 11-2 record and earning high praise from both coaches.

“We had our moments, but Brittany shut us down,” Stricker said. “She really had us shut down.”

“I can’t say enough about Brittany,” Senac said. “She’s truly a team player, and even when she was tired she gave every ounce she had.”

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