ARCADIA, Ind. – To finally take down the team that Delta’s seniors had never beaten, the Eagles needed a little bit of everything.
To beat this Yorktown team, which was bidding for its fourth straight sectional crown and had won 16 of its last 17 games, Delta needed a bloop, a blast, some sparkling defense and an outstanding performance in the circle.
The Eagles got all of the above, highlighted by Ericka Pursley’s first-inning home run and Angie Naaman’s gem, to upset Yorktown 5-3 on Thursday night in the Class 3A Hamilton Heights softball sectional semifinals.
“We wanted it more than ever this year, because they just beat us every time we play them,” said Naaman, who tossed a complete-game three-hitter, and also had two hits of her own. “It’s like, ‘All right, we’re going to get them this time! Nope. We’re going to get them this time! Nope.’ It was a good game, a very good game.”
Yorktown (22-6) had lost just once in the last 34 days and Delta (18-10) came in scuffling, having lost three straight. But that’s the beauty of the postseason — anything can happen, even against the seasoned prohibitive favorites.
“Yorktown brought up most of those seniors four years ago and just rode them,” Delta coach Doug Wilder said. “They were great athletes and they still are, but I think we just caught up with them. Our skills have developed over the last four years and we’ve put it together.”
From the start, it was clear it was Delta’s night.
Pursley crushed an inside pitch well over the left-field fence for a three-run homer, and it seemed to give the underdogs all the confidence they needed. And even after the Eagles let up an unearned run in the first, they settled in.
Reagan Jones, the Eagles’ No. 7 hitter, blooped a two-out RBI single to left with the bases loaded in the third to score a run. Then Raigan Brooks followed with a liner to left to plate another.
It also helped that the Eagles shored up their defense as Jones made two nice catches behind the plate to escape trouble in the first, Naaman snagged a line drive right back at her and Pursley tracked down two balls in center field in the fourth that she made look easy — but they weren’t.
“I like to get a good jump on the ball, and that helps me a lot,” Pursley said, unable to suppress a grin as she recalled each of them.
Naaman took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and finished with two strikeouts and one walk. Yorktown’s Morgan Masters, who threw four innings of hitless relief, drove in the Tigers’ runs with a single to center to score Ashleigh Morrow and Haley Hill in the sixth.
But Naaman retired the side in order in the seventh, with Maci Pickering making all three plays at first base, and now the Eagles face Hamilton Heights on Saturday for the sectional title.
“Mostly I was just trying to keep it out of the middle,” Naaman said. “You give them a meatball, it’s gone pretty much. You just have to work around the plate.”
The Tigers were loaded at the top as Grace Lumpkin, Katy Johnson, McKenzie Slagle, Morrow, Hill and Masters played their final game.
“I really feel for the seniors,” Yorktown coach Jeff Berger said. “The expectations were high; we just didn’t get it done.”
“They’ve been through this for four years, and I relied heavily on them. They stuck it out all the way to the last out — we just didn’t get it done.”
Central falls to Hamilton Heights
The Central Bearcats brought the tying run to the plate in the sixth inning, but seven errors were too much to overcome in a 9-2 semifinal loss to Hamilton Heights.
Hamilton Heights’ Ashley Roberts took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and finished with 14 strikeouts. Madyson Rhoades got the Bearcats on the board with a two-run double in the sixth to make it 4-2 before the hosts benefited from three errors to add on five more runs.
“That’s been our season. We’re generous,” Central coach Robert Harber said. “We don’t score a lot, so we can’t give them four or five outs in an inning, that kills us. That happened tonight, but we still held our own. It was a good showing. The girls came ready to play, and for that I’m proud of them.”
Wes-Del wins sectional title
Wes-Del won the Class A sectional it hosted with a 3-1 championship game victory against Daleville. It is the third sectional title in school history for the Warriors.
Maddie Richards pitched all seven innings for the Warriors, surrendering three hits. Richards pitched a no-hitter in the semifinals against against Southern Wells Wednesday, then came back with the three-hitter in the title game.
Richards also had two hits at the plate, as did Jasmine Brown and Mariah Berry. Berry had a double.
The Warriors scored two runs in the third inning to take a 2-0 lead. Daleville scored a run in the top of the fourth inning, but Wes-Del then made up that run in the bottom of the fifth inning and held on the rest of the way.
Monroe Central advances
Monroe Central advanced to the Monroe Central Sectional final with a 10-3 win over Cowan. Adrianna Hardy pitched a complete game for the Golden Bears, striking out three batters while allowing no earned runs. At the plate for Monroe Central, Destiny Cope was 3-for-3 with a run and two RBIs, while Anna Lowman went 3-for-4 with two runs.
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP.