ELNORA — A season that started with six straight losses for North Daviess will end at the state title game.
The Cougars (18-11) defeated Clay City (20-10) 3-1 to win the Class A Softball Semistate behind a complete team effort. Tailon Graber once again was dynamic in the circle and the Cougars scored just enough runs to deliver two wins on the day.
In five postseason starts, Graber has thrown five complete games, allowing just three runs (two earned) to lead North Daviess to its second appearance in the state championship game and first since 2005. Graber won a pitchers duel in the Cougars’ 1-0 win over Rising Sun in the second semifinal Saturday afternoon.
“She’s phenomenal,” said North Daviess coach Jodi Berry.
The Shiners’ Alix DeDreu struck out 13 batters, but allowed one run — on a sacrifice fly off the bat Kristi Swartzentruber after Jess Miller led off the second inning with a triple.
In the championship game Saturday night, North Daviess put a run up in the second inning again. Swartzentruber led off with a double to center field, and later scored on a play at the plate on a Sarah Fitzgerald ground ball to third base. The Cougars didn’t lead for long as the Eels struck back with a run in the top of the third. The defense that had been so dependable since the postseason began betrayed North Daviess for an inning.
Clay City’s Haleigh Villian reached on a dropped flyball by Graber and after Morgan Wadsworth dropped a throw from Miller on a force out at second base and a bunt single from Harley Sinders, the Eels had bases loaded. Raven Allender hit a grounder to Miller at shortstop, but after tagging out Alyssa Yocom between second and third, her throw home was late and the game was tied.