PENDLETON — All championships are special.
A championship over a rival school that has had your number the past couple seasons is extra special.
After losing to Mt. Vernon in each of the past two Class 4A Sectional 9 softball championship games, Pendleton Heights beat its neighbors from nearby Fortville, 10-1, in the title game at Legends Field on Saturday.
The Arabians, ranked No. 7 in the Softball Coaches Association of Indiana Class 4A poll, improved to 24-6 with the victory. They were scheduled to play at North Central (16-11) on Tuesday, May 31, in a regional round game.
“It was awesome! Last year, it was devastating when they run-ruled us,” said Pendleton Heights senior Hailee Brunnemer, who opened the game with a first-inning home run. “We had beat them in the regular season. This year we beat them both times. It feels awesome. Our bats were poppin’.
“I was just expecting a base hit (in my first at-bat). That’s all I really wanted.”
Pendleton Heights had 15 hits and hit four home runs.
The Arabians scored in five of the seven innings.
Tied 1-1, Pendleton Heights took the lead for good with a three-run second inning. All three runs were unearned.
In the fourth inning, senior Brynn Libler hit a home run to give the Arabians a 5-1 advantage. Khloe Gregory and Katelin Goodwin each had sixth-inning homers.
“It feels really good,” said senior catcher Kieli Ryan, who is set to compete collegiately at Butler. “We’ve been close so many times. We have always met up with them in the sectional, but to finally beat them my senior year is the best feeling in the world.
“It does (mean a little more). They’ve beat us the last two years, and then we didn’t get to play them the year of COVID. We really just got revenge this year, and it felt really good.”
It was the fourth straight time the two teams had met in a sectional tournament game.
Brunnemer, who was also a member of the school’s basketball team, recalled the Marauders got them in the basketball sectional, too.
“We won during the regular season in basketball and lost the sectional game,” she said. “It was devastating that was my last basketball game. To come back to win the sectional for softball just felt amazing.”
Up until Saturday’s game, the softball team that lost in its Hoosier Heritage Conference regular-season contest, won in the tournament.
In 2018, Mt. Vernon beat Pendleton Heights during the regular season, but the Arabians avenged the loss in a sectional semifinal, on their way to winning the tournament title over Anderson.
In 2019, after losing to the Arabians in an HHC game, Mt. Vernon upset a high-ranked Pendleton Heights team, 2-1, in a nine-inning thriller for the sectional title.
With no game in 2020 due to the pandemic, the rivalry was renewed last season. Pendleton Heights won by the 10-run rule in the regular season, but the Marauders did the same in the sectional championship game, beating the Arabians 13-1 on their way to the semistate round.
“To win in the sectional against Mt. Vernon was very exciting for us,” said Pendleton Heights coach Rob Davis, noting the recent losses to the Marauders in the championship games. “I think we played, pretty much, a flawless game.”
It didn’t take long for the Arabians to take the lead in Saturday’s title game. The second batter of the game, Brunnemer, crushed a pitch over the center field fence for a 1-0 lead. It was her eighth home run of the season.
Mt. Vernon evened the game after its first at-bat. Shelby Rakosky, Easton Wampler and Drew Fithian each had singles. Wampler and Fithian hits came after two outs. Rakosky scored on Fithian’s knock to left field.
The Arabians had four hits and took advantage of a pair of Marauder errors to score three times in the second inning.
It started when Gregory reached on a throwing error. Bo Shelton’s sacrifice bunt attempt turned into a single. Goodwin reached on an infield single. It scored Gregory. A poor throw to first enabled Goodwin to get to second base and Shelton to third. Libler followed with an RBI-ground out. With two outs, Brunnemer singled to score Kylie Fisher, who came in to pinch run for Goodwin.
Libler made it 5-1 with a fourth-inning leadoff homer. The senior third baseman had an RBI in each of her first three at-bats. In the fifth, after Gregory had walked and Shelton singled, she got a base hit to right field to score Gregory. It gave the Arabians a 6-1 lead. They added another in the frame when Kiah Hubble’s ground ball was mishandled, enabling Shelton to score.
In the sixth, Gregory hit a one-out two-run homer, following a Caroline DeRolf single. Goodwin also hit a home run. It was Gregory’s team-best ninth home run of the season.
Mt. Vernon had just six hits of Pendleton Heights pitcher Eliza Findlay, who threw a complete game, striking out seven. The Marauders leadoff hitter, Rakosky, had two singles. Junior Ainsley Baer had two hits, including the lone extra-base hit. She hit a leadoff double in the seventh inning.
It was Pendleton Heights first softball sectional title since 2018.
Mt. Vernon finished its season 13-9. The Marauders returned just three players from last year’s semistate team, but were on a hot streak heading into Saturday’s championship game.
They had won five in a row and six of the last seven. One of the wins was versus No. 4 New Palestine. The loss was against Yorktown, which won the HHC regular season title and is ranked No. 3 in Class 3A.