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North’s high heat chills Stars

BNL’s Brynlea Bennett talks with first-base coach D.J. West after driving in a run in the sixth inning. That would be BNL’s only offense as Bloomington North prevailed 3-1 on Friday.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Dottie Hinson, the star of the Rockford Peaches in the classic movie A League of Their Own, had sound advice for her kid sister: “Lay off the high ones.” Kit, of course, didn’t listen, obstinate girl that she was. “I like the high ones.”

Bloomington North ace fireballer Deborah Jones was in a league of her own Friday afternoon, and Bedford North Lawrence stubbornly, persistently and vainly chased the high ones all day long.

Jones, a high-speed hurler, struck out 8 with a juicy-looking but unhittable rise ball, scattered 4 hits and shut down BNL’s high-powered offense as the Cougars stunned the No.20 Stars 3-1. BNL (16-4) fell flat after a victory over No.11 Jennings County just 24 hours earlier.

Jones was sensational. Last year against the Stars, she got rocked for 14 runs, 8 extra-base hits and 3 home runs during a wild 16-14 North win. This time the tall right-hander was electric, zapping BNL with a charged fastball.

North ace Deborah Jones struck out 8 and allowed only 4 hits.

North’s record, pedestrian at 5-8, is misleading. Jones (3-1) has been used sparingly while nursing a muscle tear in her elbow. That has limited her usage but hasn’t slowed her down. Last outing, she fanned 16 and no-hit rival Bloomington South. This outing, she dished out the pain.

“We’ve had to scale her back,” North coach Geoff Aiken said. “It’s a matter of when she feels good. She’s chomping at the bit to go.

“She’s obviously a phenomenal pitcher. Her speed is so good, they struggle with it. She’s such a good pitcher, and they come in thinking about it and getting a little nervous.”

North scored first in the second as Katy Alexander cracked a lead-off triple into the right-field corner and scored on Emma Isenhour’s ground out. The Cougars clawed for another run in the fourth as Alexander was hit by a pitch, and pinch runner Maddie Schultz scored when BNL misplayed back-to-back bunts.

BNL’s Leona Morron allowed only 2 hits in 4 innings but suffered the loss.

BNL closed the gap in the sixth. Zoe Adams walked and advanced on a wild pitch, and Brynlea Bennett slashed a RBI single to right. But the Stars left the bases loaded, and that proved costly when North added an insurance run in the seventh on Caitlyn Boteler’s clutch two-out hit.

“We made some mistakes we normally wouldn’t, but we have to score more than one run,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert said. “Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and say they played better than we did.”

BNL’s Leona Morron suffered the hard-luck loss despite allowing only 2 hits and 2 runs in 4 innings. North collected only 5 hits total.

Bennett had 2 hits for the Stars, who stranded 6 runners. Jones didn’t look like she had an injured wing as she threw 101 pitches.

“We swung at some stuff we probably should not have swung at, but she’s really good,” Gilbert said. “We didn’t string together enough good at-bats. I’m disappointed that we didn’t have better at-bats. We should be better than that and score more than one run.”

Brynlea Bennett snags a threw from Carlee Kern and prepares to tag out North’s Abby Allen at third base.

North, which came in off back-to-back losses by a combined total of 21-1, ended BNL’s three-game winning streak (all by shutouts).

“The good news is we have two weeks left,” Gilbert said. “Great teams bounce back, and that’s what we have to do. We still have a chance to win the conference, so we have to be ready to go.”

BNL will host Jeffersonville in a key Hoosier Hills Conference clash on Monday.