Things lined up nicely for Center Grove softball during the first half of its Class 4A sectional quarterfinal against No. 9 Mooresville at Bloomington South on Monday evening.
The Pioneers took an early lead, but the fifth-ranked Trojans minimized the damage and kept it close until their offense got rolling. Center Grove took a two-run lead into the fifth inning.
And that’s when everything fell apart.
Mooresville’s offense exploded in the bottom of the fifth, hitting four home runs while tallying eight runs in the frame. Center Grove couldn’t recover, and the Pioneers went on to win 11-5.
The win served as revenge for Mooresville; Center Grove (22-6) won the regular-season meeting between these teams on May 11.
“Super unfortunate,” Center Grove head coach Alyssa Coleman said. “Great team. We knew it was going to be part of our struggle, and a battle that we’d have to conquer. That’s how the game rolls sometimes.”
Center Grove just couldn’t stop the bleeding in that fifth inning. Mooresville (26-3-1) tied the game at 5-5 on a two-run home run by senior Alex Cooper, an Indiana University commit. Coleman made a pitching change after the next batter hit a double off Trojans freshman Riley Fuhr, but things only got worse for fellow freshman Aiyana Keown. The next hitter, Pioneers senior Maddie Gainey, promptly drilled a two-run homer to center field to take the lead.
Things started to snowball for the Trojans from there. Mistakes compounded on each other, and their body language started to give way. The Pioneers hit two more home runs before Center Grove could record the second out of the frame. Coleman put Fuhr back in the circle to close out the inning.
“It happened in a hurry,” Coleman said. “We have full confidence in both of our pitchers, but that’s a good hitting team. We knew they could put up runs. It’s unfortunate, but I’m proud of our group.”
Mooresville scored one run in both the second and third innings, but Center Grove kept the Pioneers in check thanks to some big defensive plays from sophomore left fielder Mae Munson, freshman second baseman Brynn Meyer, junior third baseman Riley Janda and junior right fielder Kynadee Warner. Fuhr navigated traffic early to give the Trojans a shot, and kept the Pioneers scoreless in the sixth after returning to the circle. She was charged with six earned runs on 11 hits across her six innings, with four strikeouts.
The Trojans’ offense broke through in the top of the fourth inning, loading the bases with one out. Sophomore designated player Ana Powell came through with a two-run double to tie the game, and one batter later, sophomore Hayden Baird gave Center Grove a 3-2 lead on an RBI groundout. Junior outfielder Hannah Haberstroh added to the big inning when her pop fly to shallow left field found a hole and brought two more runs home, making it 5-2. Haberstroh was the lone Trojan with a multi-hit game.
But that was the only inning Center Grove got into an offensive groove. Mooresville outhit the Trojans 15-5.
After the game, Coleman told her players that this was her most enjoyable year coaching, and that this group will be impactful on the rest of her coaching career.
“The connection, the environment, the no-quit mentality that they had all year and the environment they built (made them enjoyable),” Coleman said. “Not every team gets there. And not even state championship teams have that environment. So they created some magic that we’re just thankful as a group they got to, because that’s really the goal.”