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Indian softball settles for split

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Salina South freshman Olivia Giroux had just completed the junior varsity game when she made it over to the varsity dugout, and it wasn't long before Hays High School's bats forced her varsity debut in the circle.

Giroux had seen little varsity time prior to Game 2 of the doubleheader. South head softball coach Kenny Waldman said she had never pitched in a varsity game and estimated Giroux's one at-bat Friday was just her fourth varsity plate appearance.

"She's been tearing it up at JV, so I thought, you know what, I better give her a shot," Waldman said.

She made the most of it.

Giroux earned the save, and more importantly, hit a grand slam in the sixth inning that deflated Hays High and helped clinch South's 12-7 victory in Game 2. Hays High won 9-8 in Game 1.

"To step up at the plate with two strikes and the bases loaded and take one out, I don't know what to say," Waldman said. "That was awesome."

Friday's doubleheader split at Dusty Glassman Ball Park moved Hays High to 4-4 and South to 5-3.

The loss in the nightcap ended Hays High's five-game winning streak against South. The Cougars won the previous 12 meetings from 2005 to 2010.

"For so long, Hays High was beaten by them," said senior Katelyn Schumacher, who was undefeated against South since transferring to Hays High as a sophomore. "Then we've been beating them consistently for the past three years, so it's kind of a downer to get beat by them tonight."

Hays High's defense struggled in both games. The Indians were charged with eight errors in the doubleheader, and other mental miscues plagued them throughout the night.

"Last week, I thought we had gotten over the hump a little bit," said Hays High coach Abby Maska referring to the team's one error in its doubleheader sweep of Dodge City.

"I think we are going to be a little bit inconsistent. We are young. ... Some of our younger players are getting settled into positions, and there's a lot more balls in play, too. We have to be ready and be communicating. It seems like some girls were so tight."

Even in Hays High's win, mistakes nearly cost them the victory.

The Indians led 9-3 heading into the seventh inning, but then South got four hits, drew a walk and were helped by two errors to score five runs and narrow the gap. Fortunately for the Indians, freshman Madison Prough managed to strike out the final batter with the tying run on second.

It was a rough finish considering how well Hays High had played in the previous six innings.

The Indians posted 13 hits and scored at least a run in all but the third and sixth innings.

Prough earned the complete-game victory, allowing eight runs -- one earned -- on eight hits and four walks while striking out three.

In Game 2, Hays High's offense struggled. South's sophomore starter Breanna Hogan retired the Indians' first eight batters -- five of which were fly-ball outs.

"We had too many girls not getting their weight forward through pitches," Maska said. "They were kind of pivoting on that back foot and dropping their shoulder so much to the point everything was up in the air."

Hays High sophomore catcher Haley Wells broke the streak, blasting her second home run of the season over the centerfield fence.

"We were on Haley about getting her weight forward through the ball," Maska said. "When she was able to do that, the girls were able to see that's what we need to do."

From then on, Hays High's bats came alive. The Indians scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth on five hits to take a 5-4 lead.

Then Maska sent Prough in to pitch for freshman Jenna Luebbers at the start of the fifth inning.

At the time, Luebbers had allowed four runs, two earned, on five hits and three walks while striking out one, but she had just given up three runs on two walks and a hit in the fourth.

But Prough's Game 2 outing didn't go well.

Prough (3-3) allowed eight runs, four earned, over the next three innings on six hits and a walk.

Much of the damage came in the fifth and sixth innings. South scored three runs in the fifth and then loaded the bases in the sixth. Then with two outs, Grioux, South's unproven freshman, stepped to the plate and sent it over the fence, giving South a 11-6 lead.

Hays High's bats, which answered each of South's offensive flurries before that, seemed to go cold after the grand slam.

Schumacher recorded the only hit in the final two innings, and it went well beyond the left-field fence -- her first home run of the season.

"We should have been able to come back with the bats, because we definitely could hit that," said Schumacher, who hit 5 of 8 in the doubleheader.