Local softball players to watch during sectional action

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Local softball players to watch during sectional action

File photo by Travis David | Sullivan senior Lexi Grindstaff takes a swing at the plate in a game earlier this season. Grindstaff is second on the team in batting average which has helped the Lady Arrows to a fourth-straight conference championship and a No. 5 state ranking heading Ito sectional play.
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The second season for softball gets underway Monday with local teams participating in the Class 1A White River Valley Sectional and the Class 2A South Knox Sectional.


Dugger Union takes on No. 2 ranked Clay City in the opening round at WRV, while both North Knox and No. 5 ranked Sullivan will be in action at South Knox. The Lady Warriors take on Eastern Greene and the Lady Arrows carry a 16-game winning streak into their matchup with the host Spartans.


Shakamak and North Central will have to wait a day before they take the field in their respective games at White River Valley.


Before the first pitches are thrown, here’s a glance at some of the local players to watch:


MATTITLYN ASHLEY: The North Knox shortstop provides a steady bat in the middle of the lineup. Ashley leads the team in extra-base hits, including six doubles, and also leads the Warriors with 21 RBI on the season. 


ALLY CRIST: The Warriors’ postseason fate will rest heavily on the right arm of Crist. The Warrior ace has thrown all but 18 innings on the season. Opponents have a batting average of .268 against the Warriors’ ace.


Crist relies on hitting her spots and mixing up speeds to keep hitters off balanced.


Understanding how pitchers think, Crist also leads the Warriors at the plate. She is just three points shy of sporting a .400 average on the season and is tied for the team lead in home runs with two. Even when Crist makes an out, it’s usually a productive out as she has only fanned four times in 76 trips to the plate.


RACHEL ESLINGER: The Sullivan freshman may be the most underrated played in the area. She also has the best glove on the defensive side of the field, just ask Terre Haute South! 


The freshman is sneaky good at the plate and is not your typical easy out at the bottom of the lineup. Eslinger sports a .362 batting average in a stacked offensive lineup. She is tied for second on the team with 24 RBI on the season despite batting in the lower third of the Lady Arrows’ lineup. The freshman also is not afraid of the key moment with the bat in her hands, having produced multiple game-winning hits on the season.


LEXI GRINDSTAFF: The Lady Arrow senior went on a tear late in the season last year and has not let up since. The Lincoln Trail College signee is second on the team in average, batting .412 to go along with a pair of home runs and 21 RBI. The senior is also an anchor on the Arrows’ defense, committing just one error in 141 chances from her first base position — a .994 fielding percentage.


MATTILYN HILL: The Shakamak freshman has overcome a lot of adversity over the last two years just to be on the field, having multiple knee injuries. But Hill is making the most of her rookie season. The freshman is second on the team with three home runs while having a team-leading 20 RBI. Hill’s .303 is good for third on the team and provides a steady glove while holding down the hot corner.


JAYLYNN HOBBS: Needs no introduction. Imagine being so hot that you feel like you’re going to pass out. That’s how hot the sophomore is heading into the postseason for the Lady Arrows, only about 100 degrees hotter.


Hobbs finished the regular season with hits in her final 10 official plate appearances. Of those 10 hits, seven left the yard. Yes, SEVEN!


Those seven home runs, in the final three games, would be tops in the area for any player in the entire season, by three. The sophomore has blasted 13 long balls on the year, which is three more than any other player has hit in a single season in school history. She also has driven in 50 runs for the year, which broke her own school record she set last season.


In the field she has just two errors from her centerfield position and has also turned into the Arrows’ co-ace inside the circle over the last month of the season.


File photo by Travis David |
Shakamak sophomore Madelyn Kennett puts a ball in play earlier in the season.
Kennett leads the Lady Lakers in home runs and batting average on the season.


MADELYN KENNETT: The Shakamak sophomore may be the most exciting player to watch in the area. The speedy, gritty, lead-off hitter packs a lot of power in her rather small frame. The sophomore leads the Lady Lakers with home long balls on the season and has 16 total extra-base hits.


She also leads the team with a robust .427 average at the plate and has scored a team-high 27 runs. The lead-off batter also uses all parts of the field, causing the defense to play her straight up instead of cheating to one side over the other.


Defensively, Kennett is the anchor on the infield from the shortstop position and also will be called upon to fire in pitches from the circle.



BAYLEE MCCLURE: The North Knox sophomore is another electrifying player. McClure may cover more grass in center field than TruGreen. If a player hits any ball in the same area code as McClure, if it’s not already on the ground or heading over the fence, it’s probably going to result in an out.


The sophomore also has a steady bat as her .373 batting average would suggest. McClure has four doubles and four triples and her 15 RBI is second on the team despite batting out of the lead-off spot. The lefty also leads the team with 15 stolen bases while being caught just twice. 


The Sullivan senior has settled into a nice, dominant groove after a rough start to the season, both in the circle and at the plate. 


The Lady Arrows’ ace has already surpassed both the 500 and 600 plateaus for career strikeouts this season. In 113 frames tossed this year, the southpaw has racked up an area-best 174 K’s with 34 being backward K’s. She also has seven, double-digit strikeout games on the year. 


Offensively, it took being moved down in the lineup early in the season for Ridgway to get back to her usual stats. The University of Evansville signee heads into the sectional with a .410 average at the plate — third on the team — with three home runs and 24 RBI. 


SHELBY SEAY: Much like Kennett and McClute, Seay provides plenty of excitement for the Ladybirds. The junior lead-off hitter leads the team with a .433 average with three doubles and three triples on the year. Once on base, the junior is not expected to stay at the same spot very long. The speedster leads the area with 24 stolen bases on the year while only being gunned down three times. Seay also leads the team with 31 runs scored, has knocked in 10 runs and has struck out just two times in 80 trips to the dish.


Mainly as the Ladybirds’ starting shortstop — with a few games behind the plate mixed in — Seay has committed just four errors.


File photo by Travis David |
North Central’s Shelby Seay reads the defense before making a move on the base paths during a game earlier this season.
Seay leads the area with 24 stolen bases on the year.


BRINNA SIMPSON: The Dugger Union senior has quietly put together a solid season from the middle of the lineup. Simpson leads the team with a .442 batting average, which is good for second best in the area. 


Defensively, the senior has been solid as they come on the infield with a fielding percentage of .964 with just two miscues in 62 total chances.


SAGE STAHL: The Bulldog sophomore enters the postseason coming off a career performance in a regular-season finale win over Evansville Bosse. Stahl picked up the win and fanned a career-high 11 batters in the Bulldogs’ 5-inning romp on Saturday.


The sophomore has chewed up all but 23 innings in the circle for the Bulldogs.


At the plate, Stahl has also provided a steady bat for the Bulldogs. She has seven extra-base hits, including a trio of triples, and leads the team with 10 RBI. 


MYKENZIE WENCE: The North Central senior is a doubles machine. Wence finished the regular season with nearly as many doubles (11) as singles (14). The Oakland City University signee is second on the team with a .424 average at the plate while her 20 RBI is also good for second on the team.


The southpaw is just as productive from the circle. Wence has been the Ladybirds’ ace for the last couple of seasons including racking up 81 punchouts this season while registering a respectable 2.41 ERA.



Other players to watch: Ellie Allen (North Knox), Camryn Byrne (Shakamak), Aphtyn Earley (Sullivan), Javen Miller (North Knox), Emily Neff (Dugger Union), Cacey Shorter (Sullivan),  Brynn Varner (North Central) and Emmy Woodruff (North Central).

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