With its collective team speed and base-running ability, David Lauck has been emphasizing to his Roncalli softball team to win with small ball. That means put the ball in play and pressure on opposing defenses.
It was a thing of beauty from the Rebels’ perspective Monday evening, as they won their second Marion County softball title in three years with a 5-1 win over defending champion Decatur Central at Ben Davis High School.
The Roncalli (16-4) lineup of left-handed slappers needed just seven hits to score those runs, with Decatur Central (14-6) contributing four errors to help the Rebels’ cause.
“If we can put the ball in play and put pressure on other teams, we can manufacture four or five runs,” Lauck said. “And when we get fantastic pitching and defense, we’re going to be in just about every game. When it’s done correctly, the small ball game can take over. From a defensive standpoint, it causes havoc.”
The Rebels demonstrated from the start the amount of mayhem they can cause. Centerfielder Olivia Hoffman beat out a grounder to third for a leadoff hit. Lauren Fey hit another in the infield that wound up an error. Both runners advanced on steals and scored on Maddie Culinaro’s two-out double to left to give the Rebels a 2-0 first-inning lead.
The score remained that way until the top of the third, when Decatur Central’s Gabby Groves cut it in half. The freshman took advantage of the wind blowing out, lining a solo home run over the centerfield fence.
The Rebels blew the game open in the sixth, though, and in their typical fashion. Roncalli’s Mallory Marsicek struck out to lead off the inning but raced to first successfully when the ball got past the Decatur Central catcher on the third strike. Culinaro followed by reaching on an error. Both went on to score in the inning that saw a pair of Hawks miscues along with a bases-loaded walk.
“It was a good game all the way up until that inning,” said Decatur Central coach Kristina Criswell, whose young Hawks start five freshmen. “(Senior pitcher Breena Smith) pitched phenomenal. She shut them down. We just had error after error and silly mistakes killed us in the end.”
Of course, the Rebels’ strategy only works if they get quality pitching, which they did again on Monday. Freshman pitcher Jordan Jenkins (9-1) allowed just two hits over five innings before yielding to senior reliever Cat Yanis, who struck out two over the final two innings to pick up her third save.
“It shows how much we can have each other’s back, no matter what,” Jenkins said. “If I start, I know she’s going to come in and finish strong and if Cat starts, she knows I’ll come in and finish strong for her.”