Rich Torres, Special for IndyStar
This past fall, nothing seemed to go right for Hannah Mays.
A promising young pitcher and power hitter for Class 4A Fishers, an offseason stress fracture in her left leg in late October cost her more than two months as she donned crutches for four weeks followed by three weeks in a walking boot.
After two more weeks without the boot, the waiting game began before resuming activity, but then the other shoe dropped.
A pulled tendon in the bottom of her foot put her back in a boot and out until spring tryouts with uncertainty and frustration in the forefront.
“I didn’t even technically tryout. I went all the way until the day after tryouts and went straight into practice this spring,” Mays recalled.
The pop she heard in her left knee while executing a routine slide into second base with her travel club team, Indiana Shockwaves, spiraled her winter and preseason training from minimal to nil.
The injury tested her resolved and put her behind, but on Wednesday night, the journey proved worth the wait as Mays showed just how potent she can be when 100%.
Locked in a pitcher’s duel with Hamilton Southeastern’s Jaylah Guilliam through five innings during the Sectional 8 championship at the Cherry Tree Softball Complex, Mays delivered the devastating blows to lead the Tigers to an 8-0 victory and the program’s second title all-time.
The Tigers’ sophomore ace tossed a complete-game shutout with six strikeouts and four hits allowed, but her bat proved the difference during Fishers’ decisive eight-run bottom of the sixth.
Mays stepped up the plate with one runner on and the game deadlocked in a scoreless tie, but not before Tigers coach Daren James gave her a word of advice.
“We always have the mentally of putting the ball in play, but Daren told me to hit the ball as hard as I can,” Mays said. “So I went up there and said, ‘I have to wait on it and hit it.’ It went over.”
With a 1-1 count, Mays found her pitch and crushed it on a line over the fence in dead centerfield to put Fishers ahead 2-0. Nine at-bats later, Mays came up big again, lacing a bases-loaded double to score three more runs.
The Tigers had 12 at-bats in the inning, compiling seven hits, but Mays’ two solidified the team’s dominant three-game run en route to Fishers’ first sectional title since 2015-16.
“It’s really surprising to me that I went from being injured to winning sectional. It blows my mind,” Mays said. “I was only there for two practices of actually conditioning and then, bam, I’m here.”
Two shutout wins paved the way as Mays blanked Carmel in a 10-0 run-rule win on Monday. On Tuesday, Mays didn’t allow an earned run as Fishers defeated defending sectional champion Noblesville, 10-2, in the semifinals on Tuesday.
“We’ve been training since September, and we’ve been waiting for this moment,” Fishers shortstop Brooke Benson said. “We knew this year was going to be our year. (Hannah) gave us all a sigh of relief. She really wrapped it up. She started it and ended it. It was awesome.”
Benson led off the rally in the bottom of the sixth after getting hit by a pitch before Mays capitalized. She went 3-for-4 Wednesday and 5-for-12 with eight RBI in the sectional.
“Her perseverance really pushes everyone,” said Fishers catcher Sarah Bumps, a senior. “When she starts swinging the bat or strikes someone out, it just sparks something in everyone.”
The spark came early as Mays scattered four hits through six innings and stranded six Royals’ baserunners. She ended three innings with strikeouts while the defense recorded four putouts and snared 11 fly-outs to stymie the Royals (14-10).
“It was incredible how she composed herself with each pitch,” Bumps said. “She just threw how she knows how to throw.”
Guilliam mirrored Mays by keeping the potent Tigers lineup that was hitting .394 with six hitters at .400 or better scoreless until the sixth. The Tigers left six runners on base before the bottom of the sixth.
“It was a little tough at first. Jaylah is a good pitcher. We knew she was going to be competitive. Those first few innings were very competitive,” Benson said. “We wanted to see who would break the ice first, and Hannah had that bomb. That really started the rally. It was all her.”
Bumps, who went 2-for-3, drove in a pair of runs with a bases-loaded single in the sixth to increase the lead 4-0, and an RBI single by Courtney James made it 5-0, then Mays capped the charge.
“I was hoping for four runs. Four would have been good. That would have been enough to take the wind out of their sails, but yeah, we’ll take eight,” James said. “Eight’s even better.”
It was plenty for the Tigers (16-9), who outscored their opponents 28-2 during the sectional. On the season, Fishers has racked up 238 runs in 24 games.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking out there, but I was also pumped and excited about it,” Mays said. “My defense did a heck of a job. They really had my back in all of these games.”
On Tuesday, they have one more game at least as the Tigers will host the regional. Mays will start, carrying a 13-6 record, 3.04 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 124.1 innings pitched.
“She grew up a lot last year in the sectional,” James said. “But she matured a lot and through the year, but she couldn’t workout in the winter. She had an injury with her leg, so she couldn’t run. It took her a little while to get in shape. She’s in shape now.”