STATE RECORD! No.5 Stars blast nine HRs to win 22-10 slugfest with Jeffersonville

BNL’s Kendall Graves celebrates at home plate after slugging one of her three home runs against Jeffersonville on Thursday. The Stars set a state record with nine bombs during a 22-10 win over the Red Devils.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – “Houston, we have liftoff!”

When a rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral, launching its payload into orbit or propelling brave astronauts toward the space station, it leaves a colossal trail of smoke in its wake. The thunder can be heard, and felt, for miles as those great engines ignite with force and fury. It’s awesome to behold.

Bedford North Lawrence, we have liftoff. Nine times, the roar of power exploded off BNL bats. During an amazing display of muscle and kinetic energy, the fifth-ranked Stars set a state record while pounding their way to a 22-10, mercy-rule victory over shell-shocked Jeffersonville on Thursday afternoon.

BNL crushed nine home runs – that’s not a misprint or exaggeration, nine – to smash the single-game team record previously held by Floyd Central (2019 and 2021) and Carmel (2021). Overshadowed in the BNL attack was the fact the Red Devils hit four of their own, which means the teams combined for a state record of 13 bombs.

Unbelievable. There are ballparks that have the reputation of being home-run havens. Remember the “Launching Pad” in Atlanta? How about Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out, or Great American Ballpark in the heat of humidity of summer. Add BNL Field to that list. With a slight wind blowing out to left, any ball with altitude was a threat to leave the yard. And a lot of them did.

BNL’s Ava Ratliff celebrates with coach Brad Gilbert after launching one of her three homers.

BNL’s Ava Ratliff, who set a state record with 21 homers last season and is now starting to approach that mark with 12 in only 16 games this season, connected for three and destroyed a walk-off blast that reached the flat spectator area far up the hill that overlooks the field. Sophomore shortstop Kendall Graves also clubbed three. The rest of the record-setting homers came from Braxton McCauley, Tori Nikirk and Hayley Davis. Between them, they left enough vapor trails to clog the air space.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Graves said. “It’s fun to be a part of that.”

BNL (13-3 overall, 2-0 in the Hoosier Hills Conference) was an offensive machine. Graves drove in 6 runs, Ratliff finished with 5 RBIs, and Aliza Jewell ripped three doubles. The Stars had 15 extra-base hits, one shy of the state record set by Heritage in 1993. Ratliff noticed the fear in the eyes of the Jeffersonville hurlers, shaking off whatever the pitch call was. Who can blame them?

“Home runs are contagious,” Ratliff said. “One after another, the energy keeps on going. We were just passing it along.”

The boom barrage started early and was often. In the first, Ratliff hammered a solo shot to center, Jewell smashed a RBI double, and Graves slammed a two-run shot for a 4-0 lead. Annie Waggoner stroked a two-run double in the second. Graves went deep again with a two-run blast in the third.

BNL’s Annie Waggoner looks for a place to slide into home plate while scoring a run.

“We try to keep it simple, try to hit line drives,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert said. “I don’t know that anybody was trying to hit a home run. Most of them were just squared up. The ball just carries here now. It’s exciting to see the kids hit the ball hard and have some confidence.”

The bombs kept exploding. Ratliff led off the fourth with a solo shot to right, McCauley sizzled a liner out to left, and Graves pounded her third (another two-run drive). Anna Williams added a RBI double later in the frame as BNL took a 13-3 lead and needed only three more outs to end the blowout.

But the Red Devils (9-6, 0-4) didn’t go home that quietly. In the top of the fifth, they made their own noise as Emma Eaton blasted a grand slam, Bethany Clarke added a two-run blast, and Ashlyn McClure went back-to-back with a solo launch. Suddenly, a foregone conclusion was once again a game as Jeffersonville scrambled within 13-10.

No problem. The Stars struck for seven in the fifth to end it. Waggoner and Jewell cranked RBI singles, and Nikirk pounded a three-run homer to center. Next came Davis, who cranked a solo drive out to center. BNL needed one more run. Williams reached on an error, Maddy Figg was hit by a pitch, and that brought Ratliff back to the plate.

Intentional walk? Nope. The Devils decided to tempt the state’s best slugger. On a 2-0 pitch, she crushed her third homer. If the field had an upper deck, this one landed there. “After I hit it, I thought ‘That’s 100 percent gone,’” she said. And there was no doubt about that.

BNL finished with 20 hits. Jewell was 4-for-4, and Waggoner had three hits. Any other day, those would be the headlines. Jewell was the beneficiary of all the runs as she went 4 1/3 innings in the circle to earn the win. McCauley made two catches up against the fence in center field to keep the Devils from adding to their total.

BNL’s Hayley Davis dives safely back into first base. Davis hit one of the nine BNL homers.

The only problem was keeping track of all the balls that left the yard. Was BNL in danger of running out? There was an ample supply available in the dugout, just in case. “We keep them rubbed up,” Gilbert said with a smile.

Eaton, Emma Borders and Andrea Durbin all had two hits each for the Devils.

BNL continues to amass astounding numbers. The count is now 30 homers and a whopping 10.4 runs per game.

“We have to stay humble,” Ratliff said. “But keep the energy up and see where it takes us.”

Here’s where the schedule takes the Stars – to Floyd Central on Friday (weather permitting) for a huge clash for the league lead.

“Here’s what we have to do,” Gilbert said. “When we wake up tomorrow, it’s all about Floyd Central. This game doesn’t matter if we go down there and get beat. We won’t hang our hats on this.”