Southwestern’s Karli Long (above) slides into home plate ahead of the tag of Rising Sun catcher Bailee Bostic for the Rebels first run of Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Shiners. Southwestern’s Meagan Ralston (below) struggles to glove a ball hit to second base. (Staff photos by Mark Campbell)
Southwestern’s Karli Long (above) slides into home plate ahead of the tag of Rising Sun catcher Bailee Bostic for the Rebels first run of Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Shiners. Southwestern’s Meagan Ralston (below) struggles to glove a ball hit to second base. (Staff photos by Mark Campbell)
Class A No. 2 Rising Sun did most of its damage with a three-run fifth inning at Southwestern on Wednesday but the Lady Rebels scored a run each in the sixth and seventh to give the Shiners a 4-2 scare before leaving Hanover in control of the conference softball standings.

The Shiners (13-3 and 7-0 Ohio River Valley Conference) held off the Rebels (11-7, 4-2 ORVC) to take a commanding lead in the conference over the second place Rebels and South Ripley (7-4, 4-2 ORVC).

"This was the game," Southwestern coach Duane Ralston said. "We've been looking to this game since last week because this was the conference decider in our minds. If we beat them we split and if we don't nobody else is going to beat them twice in my mind."

Shiners' ace Alix DeDreu was up to the task, striking out 11 and walking just two while scattering six hits in the complete game win. She gave up two runs but only one was earned.

That in itself was somewhat of a victory for the Rebels.

Southwestern got to DeDreu when no other team has in almost a month as the Rising Sun senior came into the game riding six straight shutouts without allowing an earned run since April 12.

"I think DeDreu was fired up and I told my team that," Ralston said. "I think she was throwing harder than we've seen her throw in three years ... so I know we got her best."

And Southwestern matched DeDreu's best with a strong outing by freshman Kelsi Brierly, who struck out five, walked one and hit a batter while scattering seven hits.

Asked if DeDreu was the best pitcher in the ORVC, Ralston agreed but then noted that Wednesday's game was a duel between two very good pitchers.

"I believe so, but I believe we've got a pretty dang good pitcher, too," he added. "If we can hold No. 2 in 1A off that long, I think we've got a pretty dang good pitcher. We're right there. Defensively, I think we let (Brierly) down today, but I'd say those two are the top two."

Brierly pitched out of a jam in the first to strand two Shiners before DeDreu struck out the side in the bottom of the first.

The Rebels held firm in the second despite a leadoff double by Haley Pressley and Rising Sun battled out of a jam in the bottom of the second when Josie Barnett singled to left with two outs and Brittney Ralston's fly to left was lost in the sun to put runners at second and third.

The Shiners drew first blood in the third after Southwestern had survived a throwing error to lead off the inning by turning a unusual 1-3-5 double play on Sydney Elliott's sacrifice bunt attempt.

Rising Sun's two-out rally was jump-started when DeDreu's single to center was followed by a triple to right by Bailee Bostic for a 1-0 Shiner lead.

The Shiners turned another double play in the bottom of the third to erase one of DeDreu's two walks but the Rebels retired the Shiners in order in the fourth before DeDreu fanned two in a one-two-three Rebels fourth.

Rising Sun finally struck for a big inning in the top of the fifth thanks to another two-out rally after Brierly had fanned Claire Poling to open the frame and got Sydney Willhite on a fly to right for the second out at the top of the Shiners' batting order.

The left side of the diamond had struggled to find the ball all afternoon facing westward into the setting sun and Rising Sun took advantage when Rebel left fielder Karli Long lost a routine fly ball in the glare that put Elliott at second and DeDreu on first with Bostic, the Shiners' hero from the third inning, coming back to the plate.

Bostic smacked a dying liner to the right-field line that got by Emily McClure to allow both Elliott and DeDreu to score since both were running on the contact.

"The one that killed us was that little sidewinder down the rightfield sideline," coach Ralston said. "If you go for it, you're dead if you miss it, and if you don't go for it, it's going to fall in and cost you a run anyhow ... it's one of the hardest balls in the world to field because you don't know what it's going to do."

Taylor Mullen then hammered a double to the fence in right-center to score Bostic for a 4-0 Shiners lead.

"We didn't have our best game at all defensively but we've been playing pretty good defense," coach Ralston said. "There were just some errors - or outs we should of had - and we would have had that game won if it weren't for them.

"It was mainly the one inning but you can't play No. 2 in 1A and have a bad inning," he added. "That's the thing. You've got to play perfect because they are going to play perfect because they're a really good team."

With that, the Shiners were done for the day in terms of scoring. Rising Sun did threaten with back-to-back singles with one out in the sixth before Southwestern got out of the jam by throwing a runner out at second and with Brierly's fifth and final strikeout.

Meanwhile, Southwestern broke up the shutout in the sixth - and DeDreu's six straight scoreless games - when Long busted her leadoff triple to deep right-center before Katie Conover walked to put runners at the corners.

Trying to make something happen, Southwestern attempted a double steal with Conover and Long. The Shiners, willing to gamble on giving up the run, gunned down Conover at second and threw back to home just late on catching Long. Brierly singled with two outs later in the inning but DeDreu struck out Meagan Ralston to end the inning.

"She can put her pitches where she wants them," coach Ralston said of DeDreu. "She throws a lot outside and rise balls and when you can put them where you want them, you can keep people off balance. She gets you in a hole and then throws it and you're defending it."

Southwestern came back in the bottom to the seventh to pick up an unearned run that whittled the final score to 4-2 and the Rebels actually had the tying run come to the plate but DeDreu struck out Long for the final out of the game.

"We got a couple of runs there and we threatened some more. In the last inning we threatened again," coach Ralston noted. "We've been able to do that the last few games against some good teams and we've had baserunners on but we just can't get that last clutch hit to take us over the top. But that's why we're playing these tough teams and going into the back half of the season and toward sectional that's going to make us better."

While the loss was disappointing for Southwestern in terms of its conference hopes, Ralston likes how his team is stacking up against good competition heading into the final weeks of the season.

"I think we've had a good run ... and this team bounces back pretty good and they'll be pumped up pretty good going into Friday for Jac-Cen-Del," Ralston said. "We've got a pretty good stretch coming up to lift our spirits a little bit."

And with a conference championship no longer in the picture, Southwestern can focus even more on being ready for sectional.

"I feel like we're pretty close right now," Ralston said. "I'd like to lay in the weeds a little bit and fool some people and have them take us lightly, but you never know."

Southwestern hosts Jac-Cen-Del Friday.

Pacers fall at South Ripley

Switzerland County managed just three hits in a 6-1 softball loss at South Ripley on Wednesday.

Brooke Todd, Taylar Jordan and Bre Braun each had hits for the Pacers. Todd also scored Switzerland's lone run and stole two bases.

Kelsi Konkle struck out 11 and walked just one but suffered loss. Five of the six runs she allowed were unearned thanks to Pacer errors.

Switzerland, now 3-8 overall and 2-4 in the Ohio River Valley Conference, hosts North Decatur today.

Eagles beats Shawe 14-2

Shawe softball dropped a 14-2 decision in five innings to Jac-Cen-Del in an Ohio River Valley Conference game in Osgood.

Shawe (3-12, 1-8 ORVC) visits Borden on Friday.

Oldham beats Trimble 3-0

Trimble County dropped a 29th District softball game on Wednesday evening, 3-0 at Oldham County.

Trimble County (6-9, 3-2 District 29) visits Walton-Verona today.