ELKHART — The heroics came from within the Northridge lineup, but not from its usual suspects.
With Elkhart Central pitcher Audrey Garner keeping the heart of the Raiders order at bay, Northridge turned to the bottom of its lineup to bring home the win.
Taylor Long, Brooke Maes and Bailey O’Dell — who bat seventh, eighth and ninth in the lineup — scored all three runs in Northridge’s 3-1 win over Elkhart Central in the softball sectional semifinal Wednesday, May 28, with O’Dell driving in two of them.
“We expect all our players to contribute,” Northridge head coach Bo O’Dell said. “Tonight we got it from 7, 8 and 9 (in the batting order). If the big girls want to save it for another day, we get to play another day, so that’s all right.”
Garner kept the ball outside against Northridge’s power hitters and battled the Raiders to the wire, barring the four straight hits she gave up in the second inning that led to all three Raider runs.
“Audrey pitched a beautiful game against a fantastic hitting team,” Central coach Brent Bardo said. “I am proud of her. I am proud of my kids. We had opportunities. We just hit it to them when we had those opportunities. But we did not go down without a fight. ... We were going to go down hitting the ball.”
After a scoreless first inning, Long and Maes got on base on back-to-back hits. O’Dell drove them both home and was, in turn, sent home by a Mikayla Deisler double at the top of the order.
Central responded the next inning off an RBI single by Emily Namisnak plating Brittney VanderHoek, but the Blazers could never build on the rally.
Northridge pitcher Haley Nixon twirled a two-hitter with five strikeouts, including two in the top of the seventh inning to send Central packing.
The Raiders will meet Concord in a rematch of last year’s sectional championship game Friday at Elkhart Central. The Raiders beat Concord 5-0 in last year’s final, but the Minutemen handed Northridge its second loss of the season on May 12.
Northridge 3, Elkhart Central 1
Central 000 100 0 — 1 2 1
Northridge 030 000 x — 3 8 3
Audrey Garner (L, 11-11) and Shaytia Messick; Haley Nixon (W, 23-2) and Taylor Long.
Central: Hits — Brittney VanderHoek 1, Emily Namisnak 1. RBI — Namisnak. Run — VanderHoek.
Northridge: Hits — Brooke Maes 2, Bailey O'Dell 2. 2B — Mikayla Deisler, Maes. RBI — Ba. O’Dell 2.
Records: Central 12-15, Northridge 25-2.
Next: Northridge vs. Concord in Elkhart Central sectional final Friday, May 30.