Frankton survives back and forth with Alex to claim CIC lead

May 2—ALEXANDRIA — In an epic back-and-forth battle for supremacy of Central Indiana Conference softball, the fourth time turned out to be the charm for Frankton.

The Eagles took the lead for the fourth time in the game on a ninth-inning double by Paige Parker that was just fair down the left-field line, and Grace Kessinger — who relieved Parker earlier in the game in the circle — made that lead stand up as Frankton seized control of both the CIC traveling plate as well as control of the conference with a 6-5 extra-inning win over Alexandria.

"It's a great CIC game. That was a good game that we needed every day," Frankton coach Jeremy Parker said. "Alex's a great team. That was just a great softball game all the way around."

The win put Frankton (10-4, 4-0 CIC) in the driver's seat for the conference title after handing Alexandria (10-3, 4-1) its first loss. While the remaining teams in the league have all already lost at least twice, the long-time Frankton coach knows nothing has been clinched yet.

"Madison-Grant has always given us fits," Coach Parker said. "It's nice to have Madison-Grant at home, but that's not going to be a cake game, and we know that."

Nothing came easy for the Eagles as well. Frankton had plenty of punches to throw, but the Tigers had responses.

Frankton jumped on top 1-0 in the top of the first as Jilly Hilderbrand singled with one out and scored on a passed ball. The Tigers evened the game in the bottom of the inning as Riley Thomas doubled to left and came around to score when the throw from the outfield was wide for a two-base error.

The inning could have been bigger for the Tigers, but Frankton catcher Aubree Engelking threw out Taylor Roundtree trying to steal third. That was the first of three runners the junior catcher threw out in the game.

"She threw that girl out, and I thought the momentum was turning," Coach Parker said.

The scenario repeated itself in the third after Frankton freshman Aly Smith drew a two-out walk and scored all the way from first on a rocket double to the right-center gap from Jersey Marsh. The Tigers answered again in the bottom of the inning after Roundtree drew a one-out walk. She moved up to second on a wild pitch, to third on a single to right by Brynlee Humphries and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Thomas.

Both starting pitchers — Parker for Frankton and Humphries for the Tigers — had to battle through runners-on-base situations all night, including Parker leaving the bases loaded in the fifth. Both kept the game knotted at 3-3 until the sixth inning.

In the Frankton half, with a runner on first and one out, Kinley LaPierre laid down a sacrifice bunt but reached base on a throwing error. Senior leadoff batter Claire Duncan — a Taylor University commit — then launched a 1-0 pitch over the left-center fence for a three-run homer and a 5-2 advantage.

The Tigers opened the bottom of the inning with a pair of hard-hit balls — a double by Daisy Bivens and a single from Alyssa Brees — prompting the coach to take the ball from his daughter and hand it to Kessinger.

"We've got all the confidence in the world in (both), but they were getting ready to go through the (order for) the fourth time with Paige," Coach Parker said. "I thought I would give them a different look."

"In recent years, I would have checked myself out, but tonight I stayed checked in, and I really trust Grace," Paige Parker said. "I just wanted to focus on helping my team the way I could, with my hitting."

Emmie Gullion greeted Kessinger with a sharp RBI single to left before Kessinger retired the next two batters, including Roundtree on a high pop back to the circle. But Humphries hit a soft liner into left for a two-run single to tie the game once again.

Humphries pitched all nine innings, struck out 10, had three hits with two RBI and made a sensational diving catch of an attempted bunt in the eighth inning.

"She's an all-around athlete," Alex coach Jared Bourff said. "The best thing about Brynlee is that she brings it every day. She brings it to practice and in the game. I really believe iron sharpens iron."

Humphries and Kessinger traded scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, although both teams threatened.

But with one out in the top of the ninth, Engelking lined a long single to right, and she gave way to courtesy runner Cassidy Ward as Parker came to the plate.

As a younger player, Parker may not have responded as well to having the ball taken away from her.

"That may be a little bit of maturing. She's not used to being taken out of the game like that," Coach Parker said. "She probably wondered why with a 5-2 lead, but that shows we have all the confidence in the world in Grace. And Paige got two big hits at two different times."

On this night, however, she kept her head in the game and lined a 2-2 pitch off the third-base bag and down the left-field line with Ward racing all the way around to score the go-ahead run.

It was the eighth pitch of her battle with Humphries.

"I wasn't expecting it to stay fair. I was just trying to foul pitches off and keep battling," Paige Parker said.

Kessinger then did something neither she nor Parker had been able to do all night. She retired the Tigers in order, picking up a pair of strikeouts in the process.

Frankton will face Indianapolis Lutheran on Monday before resuming its CIC schedule at home Tuesday against Madison-Grant.

Alexandria will host Elwood on May 7 and Eastbrook on May 9, hoping to win both and that Frankton stumbles so they can claim a share of the crown.

Contact Rob Hunt at or 765-640-4886.