Center Grove softball falls to Columbus North

The Columbus North softball players had a little bit of payback on their minds when they took the field Friday at Center Grove.

“We came in thinking they beat us in the regional two years ago,” sophomore pitcher Maddi Rutan said. “I wasn’t there, but I knew about it. I knew this was a big game for my team. When I heard I was going to take the mound, I had to do it for my team. I do everything for my team.”

Rutan struck out eight, didn’t allow a walk and gave up just five hits in the Bull Dogs’ 3-1 victory over Class 4A No. 6 Center Grove.

“They’re great hitters,” Rutan said of the Trojans. “But we battled and we fought. My defense was solid behind my back and that means the world to a pitcher.”

The victory was quite satisfying for Bull Dogs coach Ron McDonald, too.

“We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been in our program,” McDonald said. “It’s a great, gratifying feeling to see this happen for our program. I’m proud of all the girls for what they did today. We’ve got four starters out because of COVID. We won’t get them back until next week.”

The 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Bull Dogs had lost to the Trojans in the previous four seasons with McDonald as coach.

Rutan set the tone Friday.

“Maddi pitched great,” McDonald said. “She’s also a great shortstop, a great fielder and a great hitter. She’s got eight home runs. I don’t think they wanted to pitch to her.”

Rutan walked three times.

Center Grove coach Alyssa Coleman said she could tell Rutan was fired up.

“She was excited to play us,” Coleman said. “She mixed it really well.”

The Bull Dogs (9-4) took a 1-0 lead in the first on a walk, single by Kelsey Lovelace and a throwing error. The Trojans (12-3) scratched out a run to tie it in the fourth inning on a single by Ashlynn Wolff and an error.

North took the lead at 2-1 in the fifth on singles by Alexis Heafner and Josie Lemmons and a fielder’s choice. The Bull Dogs made it 3-1 in the sixth when two batters reached by error and Lillian Mackey followed with a run-scoring single.

“You can’t be that sloppy,” Coleman said. “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”

The Trojans had chances with a leadoff double by Lex Warner in the fifth and leadoff single by Emma Fair in the seventh.

“In those leadoff situations we got, we didn’t make it count,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to learn from it. We’ve got to grow from it. We got better today, so thank you to them. Good thing it’s the middle of the season. We’ve got to find a way to fix those little things. We’re a young team, but that’s no excuse.”

Trojans starter Alexis Rudd started and gave up two runs. Abbi Patton pitched the final two innings.

“We did just enough to get through because they did a great job of pitching against us,” McDonald said. “We’ve got a good hitting team and we’ve seen all kinds of pitching the last two weeks. It’s great to see good pitching and be able to come through on it.”