CEDAR LAKE | On Saturday the Cedar Lake Softball complex was filled with dust, movement and gritty workers.
By Wednesday, the diamonds on the two main fields, where Hanover Central plays its varsity and junior varsity games, were tinted red with the addition of the crushed shale that replaced the previous gravelly mix.
But the fences stayed the same, and after a nine-inning grudge match between the host Wildcats and Porter County Conference rival Boone Grove, that was all that mattered.
Starting pitcher Ashley Yoways hit a walk-off solo home run, her first homer of the season, with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Wildcats beat the Wolves 3-2 Wednesday night to remain undefeated in Porter County Conference play.
“I really wanted to beat them,” Yoways said. “I was feeling good because I had a line-drive (double) to the fence on the at-bat before that. I rounded second and stopped. I didn’t know it was a home run, but they said keep going. It was awesome.”
While the new infield didn’t factor into the final hit, the newly smoothed pitching circle helped Yoways and Boone Grove counterpart Amanda Hawrot combine for 28 strikeouts.
“I was happy (the umpire) was calling the high ball because I couldn’t help it that I was throwing a lot of them,” Yoways said.
Yoways, a junior, struck out 12 Boone batters, but the Wildcats (9-5, 5-0) fell behind 2-0 in the third.
Boone’s Meghan Smentek walked and moved up on an error and scored on McKenzie Starcevich’s single. Starcevich scored on an RBI single by Hawrot to put the Wolves (9-5, 4-2) up 2-0.
Ivy Dawson singled home Yoways with Hanover’s first run in the third. The score stood at 2-1 until a squeeze play by Hanover in the bottom of the sixth. Kori Davis bunted, the throw home beat a charging Melissa Balkema, but Balkema dislodged the ball from the catcher and was safe.
“That was a bang-bang contact play, and Balkema is strong,” Hanover coach Larry McMillen said. “It was a lucky win. No matter who would’ve won, it would have been a lucky win.”
Bunts were a problem for the Wildcats, who popped out seven times and struck out 16 times against Hawrot.
Boone put runners on base in the seventh, eighth and ninth. Smentek was gunned down at third base on the same play where she moved to second on a slow roller to the pitcher.
Hawrot reached on an error with two out in the eighth, but the courtesy runner who was already in place for the catcher took her spot, and the inning ended on the illegal substitution.
A double play ended a threat in the ninth.
“You’ve still got to hit the ball and still got to execute, and we didn’t do that at the end,” Boone Grove coach Ron Saunders said. “I told the girls this was our best loss in three years. They didn’t quit. They stayed focused the whole time. In years past they’ve been intimidated in these games.”