INDIANAPOLIS - When the North Daviess Cougar softball team began the season 1-7, no one would have believed their final out would come in extra innings of the IHSAA State final game at Ben Davis.However, after a tremendous run through the tournament, that is exactly where the Lady Cougars found themselves.And in spite of the extra-inning 3-1 loss to No.1 North Miami, ND Coach Jodi Berry, wouldn't have traded this team for any she has ever coached."They just had so much heart. They never quit or rolled over," she said. "Even when we started 1-7. They could have walked off the field back then and they never did. No team in in Indiana deserved to be here more than we did. We beat the No. 2 and No. 3 teams and took the No. 1 team into extra innings. I think North Daviess turned a lot of heads today."ND and pitcher Tailon Graber went toe-to-toe with one of the state's best in junior Josie Wood. Wood came into the game with a 21-1 record and an a 0.21 ERA but had her hands full the entire game as the Lady Cougars threatened to upset the Warriors in a game where only a couple of defensive lapses made the difference.Both teams had several quality opportunities to break the 1-1 tie, it would be the Warriors who caught a late break on a bad hop that pushed the title into their hands.Berry said she believed that the late season surge was partly due to the defense getting better and catching up with Graber's pitching."Don't get me wrong, Tailon is a dandy of a pitcher, we call her our bulldog, but our defense really stepped up as of late," she said.Graber had runners reach in both the bottom of the first and second innings, including a hard smash up the middle that put Graber on the ground, however, she was able to work out of jams both times, although Wood did line a shot of the left field fence.When asked about walking Wood the next four times she came to bat, Berry said the strategy was to not get beat with the home run, of which Wood had 14 of during the season."We knew she was their big hitter. We thought that if we could get around her and executed, things would go in our favor," said Berry.The Cougars drew first blood in the bottom of the second. A Carlee LeFebvre error on Jess Miller hit, led to ND's first run. After walks to Kristi Swartzentruber and Sarah Fitzgerald, Kayla Knepp singled in Miller for the first run.Graber faced a bases loaded jam in the top of the third, but again was able to rely on the strikeout to keep North Miami off the board.Graber continued to bear down in the middle innings, as she was able to retire the next six batters and never let a ball out of the infield. However, Wood continued to press as well, allowing just two base runners after ND scored in the second.North Miami was able to rally in the top of the sixth. Wood was intentenionally walked and moved to second on a steal. However a dropped ball at first, allowed Wood to score from second and tie the game.In spite of a second error that put two Warriors on, Graber got a pair of fielder's choices to limit the damage.Both Wood and Graber dominated in the final two innings, as Wood struck out six straight and Graber got a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh to force extra innings.Again both teams had runners in scoring position in the eight, Graber worked out of a two-runner jam, while ND had Morgan Wadsworth on second, but were unable to plate her.Miller had the biggest defensive play of the extra innings, robbing LeFebvre of a sure base hit with a leaping catch at short.North Miami finally broke things open in the top of the 10th, with one out ND chose to walk Wood for the fourth time in the game. After reaching second, she then scored on a hard-hit ball to short. NM that added an insurance run on a single to make it 3-1. Wood then struck out two of her game-high 17 in the bottom of the inning to end the game and finish ND's season at 18-12."I think we had a little trouble with her left-handed release," added Berry. "But she is something special."Graber gave up five hits and struck out five in the loss. She was also named the Class A Mental Attitude Winner.
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