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Indian softball picks up sweep on senior day

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Haley Wells was the final senior to be introduced Thursday for the Hays High School softball team on senior night against Salina Central. Standing there was the Indians' emotional leader -- a four-year starter at catcher -- a far cry from the girl that first stepped onto the field as a freshman.

"I don't think it quite hit me until she was the last senior standing there, just looking at her," Hays High coach Abby Maska said. "She went from this little, kind of immature freshman, who was pretty goofy all the time, to our leader and our captain out on the field behind the plate. Just to kind of look back and reflect on what she's been able to do as a player and even personal growth in the last four years, it's a neat thing."

Not only were they the final home games in Wells' career -- not to mention the final games for fellow seniors Julie Balzer, Paige Coffman and Shelby Schumacher -- but a final farewell of sorts for Wells and junior pitcher Hannah Hearld.

The two friends embraced before the first game, knowing this would be one of the last times Wells would get to catch for Hearld, something she has been doing since they were both in elementary school.

"It's especially emotional with Hannah ... being able to catch for her ever since I was in third grade, it's really emotional to know it's my last home game with her, and my teammates that I've grown so close to this year," Wells said.

"It's nice how I've learned how to talk and become a leader. I had a lot of embarrassing moments my freshman year. I was kind of the little kid and everything. It's nice being the senior this year and knowing what I'm doing and being good at it."

Once the first pitch was thrown, it was business as usual for the Indians, who pulled out the doubleheader sweep with 1-0 and 10-2 wins over the Mustangs at the Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex.

Hearld had a typical Hearld performance in the circle in Game 1, pitching all seven innings while giving up just two hits, two walks and striking out 17 batters in the shutout. But with a gusty wind blowing straight in toward the batters, Hays High also had a tough time getting anything going on offense.

Not wanting offensive struggles to ruin her great pitching performance, Hearld took matters into her own hands in the fourth inning with her only hit of the game, a solo home run that proved to be all the Indians would need to get the win.

"Hannah had to help herself today," Maska said. "Hannah came up to bat and got a flat pitch that she could drive and she got all of it. No amount of wind was going to keep the ball in the park."

The Indians got the bats going a little better in Game 2, getting eight hits on top of five Salina Central errors and pulled away with four runs in the fifth inning to earn the sweep.

Hearld once again pitched a complete game for Hays High, with both of Salina Central's runs being unearned.

"Just coming into senior night, I wanted to do this for the seniors," Hearld said. "I wanted their last home game to be something special and to remember. Of course, Haley behind the plate did an amazing job for me. And just the seniors really stepped up tonight to help get the win. It's great."

The Indians improved to 15-3 with the wins and will wrap up their regular season on Tuesday at Garden City. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.