Franklin softball scores lopsided victory at Whiteland

As a former football coach, Ken Sears knows something about three-touchdown leads.

Only this was softball.

Sears, in his first season as Franklin’s softball coach, watched his Grizzly Cubs unleash a 14-run second inning on host Whiteland in what resulted in a 22-3 victory on Wednesday.

The win enabled Franklin (5-4, 3-3 Mid-State) to salvage a split in the series after the Warriors posted a 3-0 road triumph on Tuesday.

“Last night was the first time I saw them really be bothered with the way they played,” Sears said. “We had a little chat afterwards, and I had them send me what they need to work on to be different as far as being teammates.

“I don’t know what the magic potion was, but it worked.”

And then some.

Franklin sent a total 17 batters to the plate in the top of the second, collecting 10 hits and benefitting from two of the eight fielding errors the Warriors had committed by game’s end.

It all began innocently — sophomore first baseman Addison Mashino blooping a hit into the left field grass off Whiteland pitcher Kiley Sullivan, followed by pitcher Annabelle Richter popping out. Senior catcher Lexi Willey drilled a double to the center field fence to score the game’s first run.

Charlee Cramer struck out for the second out, and then the floodgates were officially kicked open.

To further illustrate Franklin’s prowess at the plate, its No. 3 hitter, sophomore center fielder Aubrey Leugers, singled, tripled and homered through the first two innings. Needing a double to hit for the cycle, Leugers came up short.

“I was shooting for it. I tried to hit one to left center, but it got caught,” Leugers said. “After (Tuesday), I thought it would be a pretty close game. We showed up and hit the ball well. I feel like everyone was pretty mad about (Tuesday), and just wanted to get back at them.”

Richter, also a sophomore, did her part in the circle, pitching all five innings, permitting four hits and striking out three.

Maintaining such excellence with her team ahead by so many runs provides its own set of challenges.

“Especially when you’re in the dugout a lot and kind of getting cold,” Richter said. “I thought we would come out today and compete well, but I definitely wasn’t expecting this.”

Other stars at the plate for Franklin were sophomore left fielder Addison Martin (two singles and a double), senior second baseman Sara Small (two singles) and Willey (single, double).

Sullivan pitched 1 2/3 innings before being replaced by freshman Josslyn Skaggs, who went the rest of the way.

The Grizzly Cubs played loose, and excelled by doing so.

“My wife yelled at me a couple games ago. She said when you’re grouchy, the whole team is grouchy,” said Sears, laughing. “(Tuesday), I was intense. Her motto to me is be fun, have fun. And we’re a much better team when we have fun.

“We’ve really worked hard on the process of doing things right instead of the wins and losses because we’re still not a great team. But we have some seniors who are doing a really great job, but we also have a lot of young kids, too.”

Whiteland (4-6, 1-4) scored its first two runs in the bottom of the fourth frame when catcher Maddy Myers delivered a leadoff double. Two batters later, junior left fielder Annie Harmon produced the first home run of her varsity career.