Center Grove softball advances to sectional title game

Center Grove junior catcher Madisyn Tharpe had no worries about freshman Taylor Barrett taking the mound in the sixth inning of her first postseason experience.

“I’ve never seen her nervous once,” Tharpe said. “For a freshman, she’s unstoppable.”

Barrett gave up two singles but struck out the other six batters she faced as the Class 4A No. 5 Trojans topped Bloomington South 4-1 in a sectional semifinal at Russ Milligan Field. Center Grove (22-6) will now face No. 8 Mooresville (23-7), a 11-1 semifinal winner over Bloomington North, in Thursday’s championship game.

“When I go in, everything is off my mind,” Barrett said. “I just go in focused and pitch. We’re building together as a team and we’re improving a lot.”

Barrett also had a run-scoring single in the second inning and scored on a single by Tharpe.

Center Grove added two runs in the fifth, helped by two errors. Brynn Meyer knocked in one run with a groundout.

Meyer and Mae Munson had the other two singles for the Trojans.

Senior starting pitcher Riley Henson allowed one run in the third on a pair of singles and an RBI groundout.

Henson gave up only two hits and a walk, but threw 71 pitches in five innings.

Trojans coach Alyssa Coleman said both pitchers did a great job.

“We’ve got a fabulous pitching staff and we’re even deeper,” Coleman said. “I like the way we’re focused. I like the way we’re playing. They believe in each other. They know it’s in their hands, they just have to go out and do it.”

The Trojans shut out Bloomington South 10-0 in the first meeting last month but didn’t face their top pitcher. This time, senior Kinsey Clopton struck out 11 batters.

“She really hit the corners well,” Tharpe said of Clopton. “I even struck out on a rise ball. Once she gets that first-pitch strike, she kept going higher with the rise.”

Coleman said they knew Clopton, who will pitch for Charleston Southern University next season, would be tough to face.

“She got her strikeouts but we scrapped in through and stayed tough,” Coleman said. “We just had to stay focused on the end result and find a way no matter what happens.”

Tharpe said the team is doing much better communicating.

“Offensively, we’re lot better putting back to back (hits) rather than our top and bottom hitting and not our middle,” Tharpe said. “Defensively we’ve been really strong.”