No.5 Stars hit their stride in all phases during 10-3 victory over Charlestown

BNL’s Haleigh Canada and Annie Waggoner converge on a ground ball. The No.5 Stars cruised to a 10-3 victory over Charlestown on Wednesday afternoon.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – As the day for the annual Kentucky Derby, advertised as the greatest two minutes in sports, approaches on the wings of Pegasus, Bedford North Lawrence showed what horsepower can do. When the thoroughbreds start to gallop, they are quite the spectacle.

The Stars, ranked No.5 in Class 4A, went off as the favorites and led wire-to-wire during a runaway victory over Charlestown. Call it the best seven innings on the diamond. When BNL takes off, it has the horses to leave most opponents in the dust. Or in this case, in the turf.

BNL was solid in all phases – pitching, defense and hitting – during a 10-3 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon. Annie Waggoner homered and matched the school record with career win No.48 in the circle, and the Stars (12-3) hit double digits on the scoreboard for the eighth time this season.

Playing at home for the first time in over two weeks, BNL broke from the gate quickly and never lost its stride.

BNL second baseman Lauryn Anderson ranges far to her left to make a sparkling catch.

“We were sharp,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert said. “As well as we hit the ball, we can give up a run or two.”

That wasn’t a tired nag in the other dugout. Charlestown (8-4) has a young team (one senior in the lineup) but a veteran coach in former Floyd Central and IU Southeast boss Joe Witten, who has both coached against and recruited BNL in the past.

“I wanted to see – what I think – the state best is, and we saw it,” Witten said. “Coach Gilbert has a really nice team. We competed for seven innings, but we got outmanned a little bit.

“The longer Coach Gilbert has been here, the more the teams have loved each other, they care more about each other. This team plays for each other. I can see that. He has exactly what it takes. He has everything he needs.”

That’s high praise. Here’s why it was earned.

Offense: In the second, Aliza Jewell singled and Kendall Graves slugged a double off the left-field fence. Tori NIkirk chased home the first run with a ground out, and Hayley Davis plated the second with a bunt. Big ball, small ball, BNL had it all.

BNL’s Braxton McCauley slides safely into second with a stolen base.

In the third, Ava Ratliff scorched a screaming single into center, and Waggoner walloped a drive over the fence in right for a 4-0 lead. “I didn’t think it would go out,” Gilbert said. “It didn’t look high enough.”

In the fifth, the Stars scored three more as Ratliff cracked a RBI double, Waggoner’s ground out sent pinch runner Anna Williams home, and Jewell jolted a RBI double to center. And finally in the sixth, BNL scored three more. Davis dropped a double down the left-field line, Williams singled to left for a RBI, Ratliff lofted a sacrifice fly (caught by the second baseman in left field as Witten employed a super shift), and Braxton McCauley dropped down a bunt single against another overshift to score the final run. It’s not often the fourth hitter in the lineup will bunt.

“My rule is, until we have a 10-run lead, we’re going to score,” Gilbert said. “That’s only fair. You never know.”

BNL pitcher Annie Waggoner struck out 9 and matched the school record with her 48th career win.

Defense: The Stars flashed some leather as Haleigh Canada made a tough catch on a pop up in foul ground, Lauryn Anderson went far to her left at second base to snag a ground ball for an out, and Ratliff picked off a runner at first.

Pitching: Waggoner, who pulled even with Zoe Adams on the career wins list, struck out 9 in six innings.

Charlestown scored in the fourth when Addison Smith sliced a triple to left (with Nikirk just missing a diving catch) and Aiden Stewart ripped a single to center. In the seventh, the Pirates added a two-run single by Aynslie Cockerill.

“We’re still growing, learning,” Witten said. “We’re very young, but optimistic.”

Waggoner had three RBIs. Ratliff, McCauley and Jewell had two hits each.

The Stars will host Jeffersonville in a key Hoosier Hills Conference clash on Thursday.

Braxton McCauley reacts after dropping down a bunt for a RBI single in the sixth inning.