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Boone Grove breaks out: Wolves wallop South Central to tighten PCC softball race

UNION MILLS -- The reference to the final scene of The Natural, when Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) smashed a game-winning home run into the right field light tower, setting off a chain reaction of fireworks, was lost on Kailyn Coates.

The Boone Grove catcher, who's never seen the movie, launched a fourth-inning blast Monday at South Central that sounded just as loud coming off her bat as it did when it struck the scoreboard beyond the fence in center field.

In this case, there was no light show afterward.

"It wasn't working," Coates said. "I think it's the first time I've ever hit a scoreboard."

On a day when the Wolves whacked softballs all over the yard, Coates' blast was the exclamation point in a 13-1, five-inning blowout.

"I got a lot of outside (pitches). High and inside was where my (home run) ball was," Coates said. "I was just attacking it. I was just trying to improve from my last at-bat and revert back to my first at-bat with the line drive that they caught. I think we just got so fired up. We've kind of been struggling on meeting what we can do. South Central is some of our biggest competition, we really came out ready to play. Ron's using this game as an example of how we can play and we have to meet this every time."

Freshman Mariah Atteberry started the scoring with an double to left and scored on Erica Hoffman's squeeze bunt in the third.

"My mentality was to drive it to right field," Atteberry said. "I told myself, if it's a changeup, just wait back on it. I try not to think about what she's going to throw, to get in my head too much. Just see it and hit it."

The Wolves (7-4, 2-1) broke open the game with eight runs in the fourth, triggered by an Analese Castellanos check-swing single and a Kylie Wertz bunt after one out.

"I'm a guy who believes in the small ball more than the big ball," Wolves coach Ron Saunders said. "It puts pressure on them. They have to field it, throw it and catch it. You do a suicide squeeze a couple times, it really starts to mess with them. You've got to play both (styles). We work on (bunting) daily when we're practicing. It was on point. We've had some games that we've (hit) a lot, then we had two games where we didn't score any runs. A lot of it is mental."

Atteberry's third hit made it 5-0 and after an error extended the inning, Coates delivered the knockout.

"I quit counting how many two-strike pitches that were hit," South Central coach Tony Wallace said. "The elements were working against them, but the bottom line for every player out there is you've got to execute. Everybody has a job to do and if we don't do them to the best of our abilities, we're going to have games like this. Ron always puts together a really good group, fundamentally sound. In order for us to compete, we have to be able to cover the short game, which we didn't. We had a couple flubs. We didn't do our coverages right. We didn't hit our cutoffs. We were going for pitches outside the zone."

Caitlin Dziewicki's two-run single capped the Wolves' scoring in the fifth.

"Finally we started putting the pieces together," Atteberry said.

S.C. (13-2, 4-1) avoided the shutout thanks to a Delanie Gale triple and Holly Noveroske infield single in the fourth against freshman Natalee Meinert.

"South Central had a lot of really good hitters," Meinert said. "I have good defense behind me. We had a few and errors here and there, but it didn't affect us. We were able to come back in and get the bats going. This is our capability, but I think we're capable of more. I think coming off this one, it will really help for the rest of the season."

The score was the first earned run off Meinert (4-1) in five starts.

"Even when we were up just 2-0, I pretty much had the feeling with her on the mound," Saunders said. "(South Central's) a better hitting team than what they showed. Outside of (Gale), she pretty well shut them down. She's got a pretty good future ahead of her and if she stays healthy, so do we. Like I told the girls, we want to win the PCC, but everything that we're doing right now is working toward getting ready for sectionals. We made a few mental mistakes. We were lucky it didn't cost us, but those are the things we have to cut out."

Meinert struck out 10, allowing five hits, two of them to Gale.

"She hit her spots. That's what it boiled down to," Wallace said. "The girls said she had movement on the ball. Their coaches called a smart game. They were noticing we can't hit it, especially the high fastballs. The girls have got to bring the game back into their own zones, around their waist instead of up at their eyes. The better team won, the better pitcher pitched. We got a nice dose of reality, now we're back on the ground."

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