By Jake Thompson
INDIANAPOLIS — Friday evening’s sectional final contest with Decatur Central just wasn’t the Avon Orioles softball team’s night. The Orioles made uncharacteristic errors that put them in too big of a hole to climb out of and the Hawks took advantage, winning 8-3.
“We just didn’t have our best stuff tonight, we really didn’t,” Avon coach Jenny Shayotovich said. “We still fought. We still tried to get back in it. (Decatur) played a great, flawless game and made some really great plays. That’s what you have to do win.”
Avon started off in a precarious position as the Hawks loaded up the bases with two outs before Cassidy Larkin pulled in a long fly ball to center, ending the top of the first.
Decatur tacked two runs on in the second thanks in part to two errors by the Orioles’ defense and never relinquished the lead.
The Hawks added two more runs in the third and led 4-0 before Avon was able to respond.
The Orioles put up four hits in the third and scored three runs to pull within one of the Hawks.
Sophomore Hannah Goddard was the first Avon batter to record a hit. Avon freshman Brittany Whiteside reached first on an error during the next at-bat and Goddard advanced to second.
Avon’s Sadie Foster and Mackenzie Johnston plated the two base runners on their ensuing at-bats and Avon began to rally. Hannah Reeser’s double brought home Johnston before the Hawks could close the door on the third and Avon trailed by one, 4-3.
That was a close at the Orioles would get.
“We just didn’t seem to be in sync the whole game,” Shayotovich said. “Sometimes you can recover from that and sometimes you can’t and we just couldn’t really get over the hump. I thought when we got the three runs we were going to come right back and we just had some other breaks not go our way.”
Each team played strong defense in the fourth and fifth innings as the Orioles began to settle into the game.
Like they had all year, Avon decided to mix it up towards the end of the game and brought in junior pitcher Alex Anderson to relieve senior Lizzy Snodgrass.
“We just felt like we needed to give them a different look … and it didn’t work,” Shayotovich said. “Sometimes you try things and you’re the smartest person out there and sometimes you second guess it to death. We were just trying to shake it up and try to win the game. It just didn’t work this time.”
Decatur’s Mariah Hardin homered over the centerfield fence to start the inning and Anderson gave up three consecutive singles to load the bases before Shayotovich brought Snodgrass back to the mound.
“To Alex’s credit, she’s been hurt and been out,” Shayotovich said. “We were in a pretty good rhythm there in the middle of the year and then she got hit in the shin with a pitch and she’s just been trying to work herself back.”
Decatur added three runs before Avon was able to retire the side, trailing 7-3. The Hawks added another run in the top of the seventh as Mallory McCollum put one over Larkin’s head in centerfield.
Four seniors — Foster, Snodgrass, Taylar Kelso and Olivia O’Brien — put on the black and gold for the last time and their contributions during their time as Orioles won’t be forgotten Shayotovich said.
“They’re great kids and they’re all going to do great things,” she said choking up a bit with tears in her eyes. “They’re gonna be hard to replace. I told them (they’ll) be better people for it someday. It’s just going to hurt for a while and it’s all part of growing up.”