By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The switch was amazing. In a matter of minutes – the time it took 15 batters to make plate appearances in one explosive inning – Bedford North Lawrence transformed from worried and anxious to cool and unruffled.
The Stars turned a potential loss into a runaway victory, erupting for 16 runs during the final two frames to punish Paoli 18-5 in five innings on Tuesday afternoon.
Sarah Stone had three hits, including her fourth home run of the season, while Brylee Blackwell blasted a walk-off grand slam to finish the run-rule beatdown.
That was the ending, when everything was all smiles and smashing. That was a stark contrast to the beginning, when the Rams were rambunctious and BNL was reeling from a 5-2 deficit and the loss of senior Cassie Rutledge. That double whammy left a cloud of angst over the diamond.
Rutledge, BNL’s shortstop and lead-off hitter, suffered a right knee injury while attempting to steal third base in the bottom of the first. Her status was later determined to be a knee bruise with a recovery time of approximately one week.
BNL’s status was already known – in trouble. Paoli’s Kinley Block crushing a two-run homer in the first was bad enough, but the Rutledge mishap was followed by two hits and two BNL errors in the second that allowed three unearned run.
“Obviously, Rutledge getting hurt affected us all,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert said. “We were thinking about her, we’re still thinking about her.
“Things were spiraling out of control. We’ve said for years that we control what we can control. There were things happening we couldn’t control. The girls did a good job of settling down, getting their breath caught, and getting back to business.”
BNL went to work in the fourth. Kate Williams singled to start the comeback, Haley Deckard stroked a two-run single, and Stone blistered a two-run single up the middle to put the Stars in front.
That opened the floodgates. Leona Morron zinged a two-run single to right, Williams added her second hit of the inning to drive in another, and Nicole Pokorny scored when the Rams tried to cut down Carlee Kern during a steal of second.
When the dust cleared, BNL had an 11-5 lead. And it was not finished, adding 7 more in the fifth to complete it. Stone started it with her solo launch to center, and pinch-hitter Blackwell bombed a towering drive to center with the bases loaded as the last blow.
“I’ll take 9 and 7 back-to-back any day,” Gilbert said. “The thing I’m excited about is we settled down, started getting pitches to hit, and good things happened. Our kids don’t freak. They just play the game, play one pitch at a time.”
Stone was 3-for-3 with 4 RBIs, Williams was also 3-for-3, while Zoe Adams, Brynlea Bennett and Averie Jones had two hits each during BNL’s 16-hit barrage.
After the early issues, Adams settled into her comfort zone in the circle, allowing two earned runs while fanning 5. Block and Lexie Stroud had two RBIs each for Paoli (2-2).
“You have to give them credit for stepping up and taking it to us,” Gilbert said. “Luckily we settled down and played like we’re capable.”
“We came out on fire, ready to play,” Paoli coach Neil Dittmer said. “That’s always our question. Which team will get off the bus? Our first two innings is what we have to have.
“Unfortunately, it stopped. When we don’t keep putting runs on, we get in trouble.”
BNL (6-2) will visit New Albany to start Hoosier Hills Conference action on Thursday.