Arabians limping into the postseason

May 17—PENDLETON — A late-season skid has Pendleton Heights softball coach Rob Davis concerned on a great many fronts. At times, his two-time reigning regional champion team has struggled offensively while also battling defensive issues.

As the final outs were recorded in the regular season Friday evening, another — and possibly more concerning — issue has cropped up.

The literal health of his team.

In a game that saw two important cogs of the Arabians' lineup exit early with injuries, Butler commit Kate Murray pitched a strong seven innings and drove in three runs — including the game winner — to lead Fishers to a 5-3 victory over Pendleton Heights.

The Arabians have dropped two in a row and four of their last five heading into next week's sectional, which will be played at home on Legends Field.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for Fishers (12-11) as the Tigers head into sectional against Carmel.

Star PH pitcher Shelby Messer retired the first two batters in routine fashion in the top of the seventh inning with the score tied 3-3. But she began showing discomfort after striking out Brooke Johnson. and that's when the trouble began.

Taylor Duplessis singled to left and rode home on a double to right center by Kendall Jordan to put the Tigers on top. Messer threw one more pitch to the following batter and exited, favoring her right leg noticeably.

With the absence of fellow senior Skylar Baldwin after she suffered an injury the previous night, the concerns grow as the Arabians look to defend their title in a very tough sectional.

"I think by Tuesday, she'll be ready to go," Davis said. "She (and Messer) are tough kids. I'm pretty sure Tuesday they'll be ready to go."

After two scoreless innings, Pendleton Heights (16-11) drew first blood when Avry Miller hammered a 3-2 pitch to left for a solo home run with one out in the third.

That was the only run on just two hits Murray allowed through five innings, however, giving the Tigers' offense time to figure out Messer.

After stranding six runners through its first five turns at bat, Fishers finally broke through in the sixth. A leadoff walk to Duplessis was followed by a single by Jordan and Hailey Kinder sacrificed both runners up a base. Murray then lined Messer's first pitch into the left-center gap for a two-run double, and the Tigers had their first lead. One out later, Francesca Jackson singled home Brooke Clayton, and the Arabians were down 3-1.

PH rallied in the bottom half to even things up. With one out, Ari Rector singled and Katelin Goodwin doubled. Kelsey Day singled Rector home before Cassie Hayes delivered Goodwin's courtesy runner, Erin Davis, home with a sacrifice fly to left to tie the game at 3-3.

A chance to take the lead was squandered when courtesy runner Aubrey Fox was cut down trying to advance to third behind the play.

After the Tigers took the lead in the seventh, the Arabians went down in order in the bottom half, leading their coach to huddle with his top players in left field for several minutes after the game.

"We've got to figure out how to finish ball games," he said. "We bust our butt to tie the game and — we're 6-7 in our last 13 ball games. We'll take the lead, and the very next inning they score. We've got to figure that out."

Pendleton Heights will open Sectional 9 on Tuesday when it faces Anderson (6-13) in the first round at 7:30 p.m. after Muncie Central faces powerhouse New Palestine.

With the Dragons and an improved Mount Vernon team also looming, Davis knows this team will need to play better next week in order to keep a third straight trip to semistate alive.

"They're trying to make history, be the first (PH) team to go to three straight semistates," he said. "The new season starts Tuesday. We've got a tough battle. We've got Anderson. They're much improved from when we last saw them and then (likely) New Palestine."

Contact Rob Hunt at or 765-640-4886.