ARTICLE COURTESY OF SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE
High school softball: Riley victory muddles NIC
Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 5:55 am | Updated: 5:59 am, Thu May 22, 2014.
SOUTH BEND — Four days ago, Penn and Riley seemed on a collision course for supremacy in the Northern Indiana Conference softball chase.
Lesson No. 1: Don’t take anything for granted in the NIC.
The Kingsmen lost to Mishawaka Monday, and the Wildcats were upended Tuesday by Clay.
Riley’s 1-0 victory over Penn Wednesday — in a thrice-rescheduled contest — hardly had the “wow” factor that it might have had earlier in the week.
Marian has one NIC loss. The Knights play Riley Thursday and would win the crown outright with a victory. Clay (6-2 in the NIC) beat South Bend St. Joseph (5-2) Wednesday night to complicate matters. The Indians finish league play Thursday at Washington. Wins by Riley (12-8, 5-2) and St. Joe Thursday would create a four-way tie for the title.
Penn (20-4, 5-3) is left to re-group for next week’s sectional.
“This week has been a little bit of an eye-opener for us,” said Riley coach Katie Boocher. “Every team in (the NIC) is beatable. It’s a strong conference.
“(Beating Penn) was a big confidence boost for us. We need to be able to see that we can compete with the likes of Penn and the top (Class 4-A) teams in the state.”
Neither team knocked the cover off the ball Wednesday.
Penn starting pitcher Mackenzie Joecken was flawless through four innings. Twelve Riley batters up: 10 strikeouts, two bunts that were fielded perfectly.
On the other side, Riley hurler Kristi Kirkpatrick allowed just four hits and never allowed a Penn runner beyond second base.
“Kristi hit her spots,” Boocher said of her senior ace who struck out three and walked one. “She never let anything snowball into a big inning. Kristi’s a great player. Great players respond to a challenge.”
Once Joecken gave up her first — and only — hit (a double by Kirkpatrick) in the fifth inning, she didn’t appear to be the same pitcher. She struggled in the fifth, loading the bases with two walks, but got out of the jam.
In the Riley sixth, Gracie Teumac opened the inning by reaching second on a throwing error by Penn third baseman Monica Smith. After a sacrifice bunt, Teumac scored the game’s only run on a wild pitch by Joecken.
“Everything we’re focused on now is about what Penn softball does,” said Kingsmen coach Beth Zachary. “We’ve made mistakes, but we’ll learn from them.
“Our offense is absolutely fine. I’ve got confidence in our team and our players.”
|Penn||000||000||0 — 0 4 1|
|Riley||000||001||x — 1 1 1|
Mackenzie Joecken (L), Courtney Pepper (6); Kristi Kirkpatrick (W).
2B: Joecken, Kirkpatrick.
Records: Penn 20-4 (5-3 in NIC), Riley 12-8 (5-2).
J.V. score: Penn 10, Riley 0