RISING SUN — The bats came alive for Trinity Lutheran’s softball team with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, it was too little, too late.
Rising Sun held off Trinity, preserved a 5-3 victory and claimed the Class A Rising Sun Sectional title.
The win advances the Shiners (19-5) to next week’s regional, where Lanesville likely awaits. For Trinity, the loss ended its season with a program-best 15 wins.
“I’m extremely proud of our team,” Trinity head coach Bob Tabeling said. “We lost to Rising Sun earlier in the season 8-2, but we’re a different team now. We did what we’ve been talking about, which is making teams uncomfortable. It was nice to see.”
Down to their last out, the Cougars didn’t quit. Senior Bailey Tabeling stepped to the plate against Rising Sun’s at-times dominant freshman pitcher, Elaina Titkemeyer, and sent a long fly ball over the left field fence for a career-ending home run.
“I said, ‘You can bunt, you can swing. You can do whatever you want,’” Bob Tabeling said of his advice to his daughter from the third base coach’s box. “Of course, she thinks she’s built for power. That was her fourth home run of the year. It was nice to see her have a successful last at-bat.”
Grace Lance followed Tabeling’s homer with a sharp single to center, and a last-inning rally seemed possible. Titkemeyer, however, settled down and got the final out to quell the Cougars’ hopes.
Trinity started the game well offensively, using a first-inning double by Tabeling to construct a two-run rally and take an early 2-1 lead. But over the next five innings, the Cougars went hitless and managed just a single runner in scoring position.
“(Titkemeyer) got into a nice groove in the middle part of the game,” Tabeling said. “She was commanding there for a stretch. We couldn’t get comfortable at the plate. We needed to string together a few hits and make something happen. We didn’t do that.”
Lance, Trinity’s left-handed pitcher, employed a bend-but-don’t-break approach through the first three innings, allowing Rising Sun to get runners on base but then finding a way out of each jam.
That changed in the fourth inning when the Shiners’ Lily Courtney doubled deep to center and knocked in two runs to rally her team to a 5-2 lead.
Lance rebounded and was unhittable over the game’s last three innings. The sophomore retired 10 straight batters, including a three-pitch 1-2-3 seventh.
“Grace got back into it,” Tabeling said, marveling at his pitcher’s efficiency at the end of the game. “At one point, she got six outs on seven pitches. You just don’t see that very often.”
The defense contributed to Lance’s success, especially in the fifth when right fielder Addison Keaton made a diving catch near the foul line. Moments later, Bailey Tabeling ranged behind third base into foul territory to snare a Sidney Halloran popup.
Besides Tabeling’s two hits and Lance’s single, Trinity also got a single from Morgan Brewer.
“We made some huge improvements throughout the year,” Tabeling said, summing up his team’s season. “We were competitive in the majority of our games. We got healthy and started playing some competitive softball. I’m proud of them.”
Trinity’s seniors were Tabeling, Amanda Finke and Jasmine McCormick.