The dark side exposes No.3 Stars as Corydon wins nightcap during split doubleheader

BNL’s Lauryn Anderson celebrates with her teammates after hammering a home run against Bloomington North. The Stars stopped the Cougars 12-6, then suffered a 9-7 loss to Corydon on Friday.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Under the lights for the first time this season, Bedford North Lawrence went to a dark place.

After pounding out an expected victory in the opening game of a split doubleheader, the Stars got caught like wildlife in the high beams, suffering a late-night loss that froze them in their tracks. In the sunshine, all was bright and beautiful. In the darkness, BNL got exposed.

BNL, ranked No.3 in Class 4A, started the dual duels with a 12-6 triumph over struggling Bloomington North. But in the nightcap, facing a fresh foe, the Stars dropped a 9-7 decision to Corydon, committing three errors and allowing five unearned runs during a shaky performance against a quality opponent.

Perhaps BNL got caught in a trap, coming off a key Hoosier Hills Conference win over Jennings County and gearing up for another when it visits rival Floyd Central on Monday. But that’s just an excuse. In reality, the Stars made too many miscues (including two bunts that were key during scoring rallies) as the Panthers (14-6) took advantage for a signature road win.

So start with the positive before turning the spotlight on the negative.

BNL 12, Bloomington North 6 – The Stars were their usual powerhouse selves in the opener. Ava Ratliff slugged three extra-base hits, Lauryn Anderson clubbed a homer, and Aliza Jewell was solid until a late stumble kept BNL from triggering the mercy rule.

BNL’s Aliza Jewell fires a pitch toward the plate. Jewell went the distance against Bloomington North.

Ratliff, the state leader in home runs, blasted one in the fifth. Anderson connected in the fourth. BNL scored twice in the second (Tori NIkirk and Hayley Davis with RBI singles), three times in the third (Ratliff doubled and Annie Waggoner singled, followed by two North errors) and six more in the fourth (Anderson’s bomb to deep left and Braxton McCauley’s RBI double highlighted that frame).

The Stars had an 11-0 lead and were poised for a quick finish, but the Cougars clawed back with home runs by Kendyl Feutz and Kaydence Silvers during a five-run fifth.

“It was a nice win,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert said. “We let it get closer than we needed to. We did what we needed to do.”

Jewell went the distance and struck out four. Feutz had two hits and three RBIs for North (2-14).

Corydon 9, BNL 7 – The Panthers broke away with a four-run fifth, then added four more insurance runs in the sixth. Corydon pitcher Jaiden Cantrell was the key figure as she belted two hits and drove in five runs, and she went the distance in the circle while keeping BNL at bay with high heat.

Corydon took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Cantrell led off with a thundering shot to deep center. BNL answered in the bottom of the inning as Jewell singled and Kendall Graves ripped a RBI double off the fence in left (just inches from a go-ahead homer).

BNL’s Kendall Graves avoids a discarded bat to score a run.

Then came the dark side. With one out in the fifth, a dropped fly ball and a bunt single opened the door for a big inning. Cantrell, who seemed to be up in every crucial moment, cleared the bases with a sinking liner that skipped all the way to the fence in left.

“We had trouble making some plays,” Gilbert said. “You can’t do that. It was Friday night, and we did not play well. It wasn’t a conference game, not a sectional game, but we have to get better.”

BNL came back with Ratliff’s two-run homer in the fifth. That extended her state lead to 17, and she’s among the state leaders with 45 RBIs.

“My pitcher asked if she could challenge her,” Corydon coach Kevin Oskin said with a sly smile. “I said ‘If we’re up.’”

Corydon got up and out of reach with four more in the sixth. After a walk, a hit batter and a misplayed bunt loaded the bases, Cantrell drew a RBI walk, followed by RBI singles from Meghan Logan and Kylie Mathes that chased Waggoner from the circle.

BNL made it interesting in the seventh with three runs (doubles by Anderson and McCauley were the big hits during the comeback) before Cantrell (who has recovered from a winter knee injury) finished off the final out.

“This was her best game,” Oskin said. “She’s getting back into her form. We’ve been playing pretty well, but we’ve been up and down. Their bats and their speed were scary. They’re a great team. We knew we would be in for a fight. It was a nice win.”

Graves had three hits for BNL, while McCauley lasered a double that broke the school record for career doubles. Waggoner struck out nine but was victimized by the errors and her lack of late control.

“We have to flush this out, get ready to go again,” Gilbert said. “We have to clean some stuff up. We fought, we just ran out of innings.”

The Stars will clash with the Highlanders for the HHC lead at Floyd on Monday.

Bloomington North catcher Natalie Burns looks up for the ball after tagging out Annie Waggoner.
BNL’s Ava Ratliff slides safely into second base with a double against North.