Hannah Mays isn’t afraid to laugh at herself. In fact, hilarity eases the inner tension for the Fishers Tigers’ sophomore ace.
Her jovial mood came in handy Monday night at the Cherry Tree Softball Complex during the Sectional 8 quarterfinals.
Mays tossed a one-hit shutout and crushed a three-run home run in the top of the first inning to power the Class 4A Tigers past rival Carmel by run-rule, 10-0, in five innings.
The right-hander struck out nine, walked one and retired 10 of the first 11 batters she faced before surrendering her lone hit in the bottom of the fourth.
Locked in from the start, Mays found her groove inside the circle, outside of it, with an unscripted stumble after the Tigers built a 5-0 lead entering the bottom of the first.
“Usually, I have to laugh at my teammates when I’m out there. If I’m super focused, I don’t pitch well. When I’m laughing, I focus on the pitch more,” Mays said.
Before she took the field in the bottom of the first, Mays provided her own comic relief as her teammate Sydney Abel innocently shoved her out onto the diamond.
“I actually fell down and rolled,” Mays snickered. “It was really funny.”
The Tigers (14-9) had the last laugh by avenging their 16-15 loss to the Greyhounds suffered on May 6 on the same field.
Unable to protect a 13-9 lead two weeks ago, Mays and the Tigers made up for the past with a 10-hit performance, which fell short of their 18 hits in their first meeting.
Seven of the Tigers nine hitters recorded at least one hit against Carmel (13-10) during the rematch, and a pair of first-inning home runs put the Greyhounds in an immediate hole.
“We talked about it on the bus before we even got off, getting off to a fast start, putting some runs up and taking a little life out of them early,” Fishers coach Darren James said. “We had a couple of really nice swings in that first inning to get us going.”
Mays delivered the first blow by blasting a home run to help her own cause, which freshman Kaylee Kardash followed up with a two-out, two-run bomb that chased Carmel starter Sommer Edwards.
The home run was Kardash’s fourth on the season, and a staple for a lineup that has six regulars hitting .439 or better.
“It always helps out when you can get a couple of home runs in the first,” James said. “Up until a week ago, we had seven girls hitting over .400, so we’ve been able to put some runs up this year. We knew we were going to be an offensive team coming in this year, and we’ve been able to capitalize on that.”
Fishers averaged 9.5 runs scored per game heading into the postseason and racked up 210 runs in 22 games.
By the end of the top of the first, the team’s season home run total swelled to 32.
“(That loss) kind of gnawed at us a little bit,” James said. “It was one of those where we weren’t happy about it, but it didn’t mean much at the time. This is the one that meant something.”
Olivia Stinson, who is hitting .444, and Indiana University recruit Brooke Benson, who leads the team with a .557 batting average, made each at-bat count.
Stinson finished 3-for-4 with an RBI single in the top of the fifth to increase the Tigers’ lead to 9-0. Benson, who went 2-for-3, drove in the team’s 10th run.
Benson had an RBI single in the top of the fourth to put Fishers ahead 6-0.
“We definitely put the bat on the ball, and we definitely score runs,” Mays said. “I think we can win this thing, if we keep doing what we’re doing.”
The Tigers used power early, but back-to-back hits by Olivia Latimer and Caroline Bernhardt to start the top of the fifth sparked a five-hit, four-run inning.
A one-out sacrifice bunt from senior Jade Frye set up senior Sarah Bumps, who laced a two-run single into right field before junior Courtney James walked ahead of both Stinson and Benson.
Mays took care of the rest with efficiency to improve her record to 11-6. Through 110 1/3 innings pitched, Mays has 89 strikeouts and a .280 batting average against.
The Greyhounds put one runner in scoring position in the bottom of the fourth when Stormy Kotzelnick broke up the no-hit bid with a double into centerfield after an eight-pitch at-bat.
“I am kind of upset about that because I had her, and I totally could have gotten her, but I gave up one bad pitch. It’s okay, though,” Mays said. “At the end of the day, we still won, so it’s all good.”
Carmel’s only other base runner was Halle Robinson, who reached with a walk in the bottom of the second. From there, Mays retired six straight, including three consecutive by strikeout. She struck out five of the final seven batters she faced to get Fishers one step closer to its first sectional title since 2015-16.
“We made the one mistake against Stormy, and she absolutely tattooed that ball, but other than that Hannah was dialed in tonight,” James said.
Rich Torres, Special for IndyStar Published 9:17 p.m. ET May 20, 2019