ELKHART — Elkhart Central’s Audrey Garner was up to the challenge of extra work against Elkhart Memorial, Northridge’s Haley Nixon made rapid-fire work of Goshen, and Concord’s RaeAnn Miller made adventurous work of Warsaw.
It worked out well for each, as the Blue Blazers, Raiders and Minutemen won Class 4A Elkhart Sectional softball opening games Monday, May 26, at Central High School.
Garner went the distance in the Blazers’ 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Crimson Chargers, Nixon fired a six-inning no-hitter with 13 strikeouts on the way to a 10-0 blanking of the Redskins, and Miller beat Warsaw 8-1 despite walking eight batters.
That last game was a semifinal, putting Concord (20-8) in Friday’s championship against Wednesday’s Central (11-14) vs. Northridge (24-2) survivor.
Central 3, Memorial 2
Shaytia Messick laced a two-out double to left field in the top of the 10th to score Allison Valentijn from second with what proved the winning run.
Valentijn, who did not start, nevertheless went 3-for-3. That was capped by her two-out single in the 10th. She advanced to second on a wild pitch to set the stage for Messick.
Garner scattered seven hits and never walked a batter while allowing just one earned run and striking out four.
“Steve Cart, our pitching coach, called a great game, and Audrey followed his lead and did a fantastic job,” Central head coach Brent Bardo said. “I’m really proud of her and the way she pitched today. I’m thrilled with our team’s effort late and happy to get the win.”
Emily Namisnak’s two-run double in the fourth put the Blazers up 2-0.
Charger freshman and No. 9 hitter Kaylee Warner tripled, doubled and drove in Memorial’s first run in the fifth. Junior Gabby Warner added an RBI triple in the sixth to tie the game.
Northridge 10, Goshen 0
Only a dropped third strike to start the sixth inning kept Nixon (22-2) from her third perfect game of the season.
Brianne O’Dell went 3-for-3 with a triple, three RBIs, three runs scored, a stolen base and a walk. Taylor Long added three hits and drove in two runs.
The Raiders, who scored in all six innings on their way to winning by the 10-run rule, laid down a whopping seven sacrifices, including two in the first inning that each sent alert and aggressive runners from first to third.
“We played more of the old Northridge style of softball,” winning coach Bo O’Dell said. “(During the regular season) we tried to slug it out a little more, but now it’s sectional time, so we want to bunt and run, get people in scoring position sooner, and trust our teammates to get the job done once someone’s on second.”
Concord 8, Warsaw 1
Over six innings of swashbuckling work, Miller finished with 12 strikeouts and three wild pitches to go with those eight walks while allowing three hits. She also gave up just one run, in the sixth, after the Minutemen already owned an 8-0 lead.
“She’s an extremely analytical kid, extremely intelligent, but it doesn’t always work in her favor,” Concord coach Dawn Austin said. “She was over-thinking some stuff. She didn’t ever settle in, but she still (gave up just the one run).”
Jenny Miller, no relation to Rae Ann, tripled to drive home the Minutemen’s first run, in the opening inning, and later singled in another.
During a five-run fourth inning, Concord ripped three straight extra-base hits to pull away.
“I thought we’d see a different pitcher than Warsaw threw today,” Austin said. “It took us a little bit of time to get the timing down, but I trust our kids with the bats. It felt like a matter of time.”
Elkhart Central 3, Elkhart Memorial 2
Central 000 200 000 1 — 3 11 3
Memorial 000 011 000 0 — 2 7 2
Audrey Garner (W, 11-10) and Shaytia Messick; Gretchen Hurtle (L) and Kiersten Osowski.
Central: Hits — Emily Namisnak 3, Allison Valentijn 3. 2B — Namisnak, Messick. RBI — Namisnak 2, Messick.
Memorial: Hits — Alexa Swearengin 2, Kaylee Warner 2. HR — 3B — K. Warner. 2B — K. Warner. RBI — K. Warner, Gabby Warner.
Records: Central 12-14, Memorial 7-20.
Northridge 10, Goshen 0
Goshen 000 000 — 0 0 5
Northridge 221 311 — 10 11 0
Taylor Caouette (L) and Jessica DeStefano; Haley Nixon (W, 22-2) and Taylor Long.
Northridge: Hits — Brianne O’Dell 3, Taylor Long 3, Mikayla Deisler 2. 3B — Brianne O’Dell. 2B — Nixon. RBI — Brianne O’Dell 3, Long 2, Nixon, Grace Grevengoed. Runs — Brianne O’Dell 3, Deisler 2.
Records: Northridge 24-2, Goshen 7-20.
Next: Elkhart Central vs. Northridge in Elkhart Sectional semifinal Wednesday, May 28, at Central, 6 p.m.
Concord 8, Warsaw 1
Warsaw 000 001 0 — 1 3 1
Concord 201 500 x — 8 8 1
Whitney Sleeth (L), Abby Glass (4) and Sidney Hernandez; RaeAnn Miller (W, 14-6), Kiley Austin (7) and Sabrina Scherer.
Warsaw: 2B — Ashley Ousley.
Concord: Hits — Jenny Miller 2, Olivia Hess 2. 3B — J. Miller, McKenzie Loge. 2B — Austin, Hess. RBI — J. Miller 2, R. Miller, Austin, Hess, Loge. Runs — Jade Iavagnilio 2, Tori Braddock 2.
Records: Concord 20-8, Warsaw 8-20.
Next: Concord vs.Wednesday’s Central/Northridge winner in Elkhart Sectional championship Friday, May 30, at Central, 6 p.m.