Never out of a game? That's Sullivan softball

·4 min read

Jun. 10—Sullivan's six-run comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday at the Class 2A Forest Park Semistate was miraculous — "Like something you see on ESPN," coach Lela Earley said this week — but it was something its high school softball fans might have expected.

Comeback victories haven't been uncommon for the Golden Arrows lately. In their five postseason games, the Arrows have come from behind in four of them and gave up a three-run lead in the fifth one before breaking the tie and coasting to victory.

"This isn't a group that likes to take it easy on me," Earley said wryly.

So when the Arrows — who haven't lost to a Class 2A team all season — face top-ranked Pioneer for the state championship at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Center Grove, they aren't likely to be scared.

"In the sectional [championship game] we were down 3-2 [going into the seventh inning] and won 7-3 [over Linton]," recalled Jocey Wible this week, still sporting the stitch-shaped wound on her chin from her now-famous foul ball in the semistate championship game. "So we just thought about the Linton game [while trailing 8-3 with three outs to go against Union County] and we said we weren't going to give up."

"We all kind of thought we had it in the bag [after taking a 3-1 lead earlier in that game]," Brooklyn Riley said, "but we never gave up [after falling behind]; we all thought, 'We can do it.' The game's never over until the last out is called."

"We never give up," Klaire Williams agreed. "We believe we can finish it off and keep going."

"I think our hitting [in that inning] was insane. And we don't give up," added Kendal Edmondson.

"We just have fighting spirit as a whole," said Kate Ridgway.

"We were down five and I strike out," Lexi Grindstaff recalled, "but then Kate gets on and I say, 'OK, we got it.' "

"We all trust each other, and that helps a lot," Gracie Shorter said.

"I was definitely worried, but I knew we've been that way before," added Delainey Shorter. "We just have to keep our heads up; we know we know how to play softball, we've just got to do what we know how to do."

"It took a lot of heart, courage and determination," said Avery Wiltermood. "The game's not over until the last pitch. We never give up."

"I kept telling myself, 'One baserunner at a time. One run at a time,' " Earley remembers. "A lot of things came together for that to happen."

"Everybody did their part, and we were able to string hits together," said Wible, who had the last of those hits: a walkoff two-run homer.

If their never-say-die spirit isn't the defining characteristic of the Golden Arrows, their often spectacular defense might be. Although the Arrows were disappointed about their defensive showing against Union County, they also made great plays in that game. And their infield defense probably deserves most of the credit for their regional triumph over Evansville Mater Dei.

Their pitchers appreciate it.

"I don't get as nervous," Edmondson said. "I don't stress about the game as much when our defense is good."

"[The defense] makes you feel like you aren't alone out there," added Ridgway. "You don't have to do all the work."

"We have a lot of [defensive] ability. We're an athletic group," Earley said. "That's been one of our strong suits all year."

A lot of the athleticism demonstrated the past few weeks has been supplied by the twins — Gracie in center field, Delainey at third base — and by Wiltermood, whose ability at shortstop enabled Delainey Shorter to play third.

"I've never been afraid of a softball in my life until they put me on third," she claimed earlier this week.

"We're pretty solid all the way around," her sister added.

"We're playing our best defense right now," Wiltermood concluded. "The errors [against Union County] didn't define us."

"If Kendal or Kate is struggling, [the defense] is always picking them up," Wible pointed out, "and we always communicate very well together."

And while almost every winning girls team cites togetherness for its success, the two freshmen in the Sullivan lineup testified this week that it's true of the 2021 Golden Arrows.

"I'm so happy to be part of this team as a freshman," Ridgway said, "and I'm proud of us for making it this far."

"It's incredible," Grindstaff agreed, "everything we've worked for all season."

"They've overcome a lot," Earley said of her team. "Not playing last year [the Sullivan juniors were the only veterans at the start of this spring], not being in school, and there have been some other issues. But they all bring something different to the table."

Sullivan, by the way, can also hit (.353 team batting average with 40 homers) and pitch (1.83 team earned run average), and when they hit, the athleticism Earley mentioned makes them terrors on the bases.

"Defense, baserunning, pitching, hitting — they all pick each other up," Earley concluded, "and that's what championship teams are made of."

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