Mater Dei’s Hayle Palm allowed just two Shelbyville hits and belted a three-run home run to lead the Knights to a 10-0 victory and a class 2A regional softball championship Friday.
The effort, she said, is helping her finally get past the 10 runs she surrendered to rival Central in last season’s regional finals.
“Last year we came out, and it didn’t go so good,” said Palm, a sophomore. “I was anxious to get out there and redeem myself.”
Did she ever.
Palm drove home a run in the first with a sacrifice fly, got a hit in the third, then slammed the three-run bomb during a fourth-inning rally that capped the short-game victory. In the pitcher’s circle, she struck out two, walked three and retired 11 of the last 12 batters she faced.
The Knights, who were 8-8 on April 15, have now won 12 of their past 14 games. They advanced to the Flora Sectional Tournament, where they will face either Tuscola or Casey-Westfield in a semifinal game Monday at 6:30 p.m.
“The girls deserve this,” said Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg. “We’ve got five seniors; four of them have been starting for four years. It’s a really good group of girls.”
Shelbyville loaded the bases on two hits and a walk with one out in the first inning, but Palm got out of it with a 1-2-3 double play. The Rams then put two on with none out in the second, but Palm again worked out of trouble with help from her defense.
Schadegg was impressed with his young pitcher’s resilience, but he says he was more comfortable watching the last three innings than the first two.
“Sometimes that’s good mentally because you fight out of things and understand you can do that,” he said. “At the same time you want to make it a little easier on yourself and throw strikes.”
Mater Dei scored three runs in the first inning on Palm’s sacrifice and a two-run single from senior Sydney Englehart. The Knights picked up another run in the third when leadoff hitter Logan Braundmeier led off with a double, stole third and scored on Kelsey Gerdes’ sacrifice fly.
Braundmeier, a senior center fielder, finished the game 3 for 3 with a stolen base and three runs scored.
“The middle has been swinging it well all year,” Schadegg said. “When (Braundmeier) gets on ahead of them, it gives us a chance to make contact and put a run on the board.”
It became a short-game in the fourth inning when the Knights sent nine batters to the plate and put six runs on the board. Abby Hellmann belted a two-run home run, and Braundmeier scored on an error to go with Palm’s three-run shot.
Shelbyville’s season ends at 16-13. Joselyn Lewis took the loss, allowing nine hits, walking one and striking out one. The Rams committed two errors behind her.