Rich Torres, Special for IndyStar
The message was clear from the first day of the season. The only thing keeping Class 4A Fishers from a historic run this spring was belief.
Nothing more, nothing less, Fishers coach Daren James recalled telling his players during the preseason. Their collective talent was obvious. It was just a matter of putting it all together at the right time.
On Tuesday night, the Tigers had everything firing in perfect precision during Sectional 8 semifinals at the Cherry Tree Softball Complex.
The Tigers’ potent offense posted 13 hits, while scoring in every inning but two, and Hannah Mays tossed a complete game with five hits surrendered as Fishers upended the defending sectional champion Noblesville, 10-2.
“We talked about it since the beginning. I told them right out of the gate, this is probably the most talented team we’ve ever had, so let’s go out and see what we can do with it,” James said. “Now, we’re in the position that we want to be, and we’ll see how it goes.”
So far, the Tigers are purring their way toward their first potential sectional crown since 2015-16. And, they’re getting it done in various ways.
A day after limiting Carmel to one hit for a shutout win during the sectional quarterfinals, Mays (12-6) retired seven of the first eight Millers she faced en route to a near repeat feat.
The Millers (16-9) used an inning-opening fielding error to setup a two-run bottom of the fourth, but Mays didn’t allow a single earned run and finished with five strikeouts and one walk.
The Tigers’ lineup came in hitting .392 as a group, and they didn’t let up, pushing their season runs total to 230 in 24 games with 23 hits recorded in the past two state tournament games.
Leadoff hitter Courtney James went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Kaylee Kardash was 3-for-4 in the seventh hole, Jade Frye was 3-for-4 with two RBIs out of the eighth spot, and Indiana commit Brooke Benson was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
“It was everybody tonight. We got output from everyone in the lineup. We were able to play some small ball early, get into some situations where we could get some runs,” James said. “The bats came alive, and we started hitting it.”
The bats crushed their 5-2 margin of victory Fishers recorded over Noblesville on April 6 during their Hoosier Crossroads Conference meeting.
Held to eight hits against Millers’ ace Madison Taylor in their first meeting, the Tigers were fueled to avenge their 4-3 sectional semifinal loss from a year ago.
Courtney James set the tone in the top of the first with a leadoff double as Fishers led 6-0 through four innings before the Millers could respond.
“When (Taylor) gets going, she can be pretty tough to hit,” James said. “You have to bunt a little bit and hope you move people around. It worked for us tonight.”
Taylor carried an ERA under 3.00 prior to the game with 12-5 record and 94 strikeouts in 99 innings pitched. The Tigers only struck out five times.
“We’re pretty good all the way through the lineup,” James said. “We have some people that can do some things with the bat, and we play pretty good defense, and Hannah has been pretty good on the mound for us.”
The Tigers were opportunistic at the plate, especially Benson, who had an RBI sacrifice bunt in the first, an RBI double during Fishers’ four-run top of the fourth and stole home from third base in the sixth.
“It was a squeeze play, so I had a game plan, if (the catcher) was throwing it, I was going for it,” Benson remarked on her rundown sprint to put Fishers ahead 9-2. “I was a little scared at first, but I told myself, I’m scoring no matter what.”
The Tigers are proving fearless and their confidence is swelling.
“Once the top of the lineup gets rolling, everyone starts rolling. We’re a really good hitting team. Hitting is contagious, so we’re always rolling,” Courtney James said. “We saw (Taylor) earlier in the season, and we knew first-pitch strike was the best we were going to get. So we were attacking and ready to go.”
James laced a two-run double in the top of the fourth, which was a theme as Frye followed with a two-run double in the fifth.
Through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, Fishers racked up eight runs on 10 hits.
“This is one of those nights when we put it all together,” Daren James said. “It came together for us.”
Now, they have one more hurdle to clear with a rematch against rival Hamilton Southeastern for the sectional title. Fishers beat HSE 5-4 for the Mudsock trophy on April 23.
“We knew we were going to see them in the championship, and we’re just going to go into tomorrow like the Mudsock and get that win in our minds that we’re going to do it,” Benson said. “This sectional is very competitive. We know the players, we know how competitive they are, but we’re more competitive and we want to win.”