Each player, coach and fan in attendance wearing purple knew what was on the line, so Seymour softball coach Jerry Burton didn’t water down the importance of coming out with a road win Tuesday at Jennings County.
Before the first pitch, Burton told the team that whichever team came out on top could control its Hoosier Hills Conference destiny.
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In a contest between two undefeated HHC programs, the Owls made a statement: Seymour plans to capture the program’s first conference crown, and it doesn’t intend to share it.
The Owls shut the Panthers down 3-0, moving the team to 5-0 in the HHC while handing the Panthers (14-3) its first conference loss of 2019.
“There are two things that are a big deal for Seymour: Winning the conference and winning a sectional,” Burton said. “That’s been our goal for a long, long time. It’s a big deal, and it’s important.”
The Owls (12-2) can clinch a share of the HHC, at the minimum, with a win over Bedford North Lawrence on May 7. If the Owls beat the Stars, they can win the conference outright against Columbus East on May 10.
Sophomore Grace Meyer led the Owls off with a double to start the game before Carlee Robinson singled to right field to give the visitors a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Neither team scored the next three innings, as Owls senior pitcher Rachel Kaufman kept the Panthers hitless through the first four innings.
In the fifth, Meyer crushed a solo home run over the center field fence to extend the Owls’ lead to 2-0.
The Owls loaded the bases in the top of the seventh on a single by Alyssa Perry, reach on error by Stephanni Kleber and a walk with one out. Kaufman sacrificed to right field to score Perry and put the Owls ahead 3-0, but the Owls weren’t able to add any more scoring after that.
Kaufman tossed a complete game, striking out eight batters while giving up two hits and walking none. The Panthers had a double in the fifth inning and a single in the sixth.
The Owls collected eight hits, as Meyer went 3-for-3 and Perry finished 2-for-3 on the evening.
Burton said Kaufman was dominant from start to finish in the circle and a big reason why the team pulled out the victory.
“A lot of it was defense, but a lot of it was Rachel, too. Rachel came out and shut them down,” Burton said. “We had to make some defensive plays, but a lot of this was Rachel. She moved the ball up and down. She didn’t change speed much. She just came after them.”
Seymour will host Bloomington South on Thursday and travel to Edgewood on Saturday.