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Making most of chances

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Recent Center Grove High School graduates Jay Prior and Sarah Thompson have been boyfriend-girlfriend since the second semester of the 2010-11 school year.

The couple’s fork in the road, at least geographically, becomes realized Aug. 18 when Prior leaves for Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Illinois, where he’ll pitch for the Statesmen baseball program.

Thompson moves her belongings to Indiana University the following week. The four-year starter in center field for the Trojans’ softball program plans to major in biology while playing in the outfield for the Hoosiers.

Prior’s dorm room is a 90-minute drive southwest of the IU campus.

Plenty of absence to make young hearts grow fonder. Close enough to make it work.

Always supportive of each others’ athletics pursuits, Thompson and Prior through recent North-South All-Star games both got to play and cheer one final time at the high school level.

Thompson along with former Greenwood standout Brittany Gray played for the South All-Stars in their two-game sweep of the North All-Stars on June 28 at Carmel’s Cherry Tree Complex.

Prior contributed a hit and three innings pitched to help the South All-Stars win all three against the North last weekend at venerable McBride Stadium, a 1,800-seat minor-league facility in Richmond.

“I had a blast. It’s definitely something I’ll remember the rest of my life,” Prior said. “Just being able to play with players you’ve always played against.”

All-Star participants were issued matching uniforms for Saturday’s doubleheader. However, the players were instructed to wear their high school uniform for Sunday’s game, which allowed Prior an opportunity to model his Center Grove No. 15 one final time.

“It was definitely weird putting it on and not being at Center Grove,” Prior said.

Cheering him on somewhat nervously was Thompson, whose All-Star experience resulted in two base hits in three at-bats.

“I was really honored to be chosen, and it was a good experience for me,” Thompson said. “It was really cool to be able to compare how the two All-Star games were played. I thought the softball one was a little more organized, but the field was awesome where the baseball game was played.”

Opened in 1936, McBride Stadium has been home to four minor-league baseball teams: the Richmond Roses (1946-48), Richmond Robins (1949), Richmond Tigers (1950-52) and Richmond Roosters (1995-2005).

It’s now where the Richmond RiverRats of the collegiate summer Prospect League play home games.

While not nearly as old, the Cherry Tree Complex packs its own special history. It was home to the annual IHSAA Girls State Softball Finals from 1990-2004 before Ben Davis High School assumed hosting responsibilities in 2005.

Center Grove captured a single-class title at Cherry Tree in 1995, then won Class 3A championships there in 1998 and 2003. The Trojans were single-class state runner-up at the Carmel facility in 1992 and 1996 and later in 3A (2002) and 4A (2004).

It’s where Gray, the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year the past three seasons, officially closed out her fabulous high school softball career.

Gray pitched the opening two frames of the South All-Stars’ Game 1 triumph, striking out two of the six batters she faced. At the plate, she delivered a single and was walked on two other occasions.

“I did alright. It wasn’t my best,” said Gray, the Daily Journal’s 2014 Female Athlete of the Year who leaves Aug. 10 for the University of Georgia, where she’ll pitch and play first base for the Bulldogs.

“It was a good experience to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time.”

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