Orleans to host Mitchell in Patoka Lake showdown

Emerie Russell (left) celebrates with teammates Malaya Tanglao (center) and Caitlyn Mullis (right) after a strikeout against Eastern Greene.

Emerie Russell (left) celebrates with teammates Malaya Tanglao (center) and Caitlyn Mullis (right) after a strikeout against Eastern Greene.

The Mitchell and Orleans softball programs are in very different places in their development.

The Bluejackets are contenders. They’re title chasers. They’ve got a junior class that’s loaded with talent and experience. That group has pushed them to another level.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are still learning. They’ve got a freshman class that’s shown its talent so far this season but needs more time to get used to the varsity game. They think that eventually, that group will push them to another level.

On Wednesday, Mitchell and Orleans will meet on the diamond in the Times-Mail Softball Game of the Week. As they do so, one side will try to take a step toward a Patoka Lake Athletic Conference Championship while the other will try to pick up a landmark win.

“It’ll be a good experience, especially with sectional coming up,” Orleans coach Will Owens said. “We’ll have to limit our errors and put the ball in play a lot, try to make them make some errors.”

Reeling Bluejackets hope to get right against Orleans

After a strong start to the season, the Bluejackets’ pace has slowed down a bit. Since falling to Springs Valley to start last week, they’ve dropped a game to Bedford North Lawrence and a pair to Eastern (Pekin).

More: Bedford North Lawrence played Mitchell in a one-sided softball slugfest

In those four losses, Mitchell scored just four runs total and the war of attrition that is a softball season has begun to catch up with the Bluejackets. They’re beginning to experience the wear and tear that comes with the number of games they’ve played, but they’re hoping to move back toward 100 percent soon.

Malaya Tanglao high-fives teammates and coaches while being announced as a part of Mitchell's starting lineup against Paoli.

Malaya Tanglao high-fives teammates and coaches while being announced as a part of Mitchell’s starting lineup against Paoli.

“We’ve got to get healthy. We’ve got a lot of girls who are hurting right now. Pitchers are hurting and we’re trying to spread the workload across the board,” Mitchell coach Stevie Canada said. “When that happens in the middle of the season, it leaves some holes and we’re trying to figure that out. On top of that we’ve kind of struggled at the plate on and off all year.

“We’ve talked about what we need to be better at, so the girls know what they’ve got to do. Hopefully we can get it done.”

Orleans beginning to see youth step up

As a team that’s still early in its development — 215 of the Bulldogs’ 305 plate appearances this season have been by freshmen and sophomores — a big part of this season for Orleans has been gaining varsity experience. Orleans’ underclassmen have shown the ability to compete, helping the Bulldogs beat county rival Paoli, as well as Bloomfield and compete with quality opponents like Eastern (Pekin) and Eastern Greene.

With just a few weeks left in the regular season, the Bulldogs will try to keep growing and a win over Mitchell would be a big one for the them.

Season-opening hopes: Orleans softball team working to build on sectional victory

“I would say they’re coming together,” Owens said. “Our defense has really improved. We’re starting to combine ourselves as a team.”

Mitchell knows that Bulldogs will be hungry

With things the way they are for the Bluejackets right now, they could really use a win and this game will provide them with the opportunity to get one. If they roll into Orleans assuming they’ll win, they could wind up on the wrong side of things.

Mitchell is well aware that it will have to keep its focus to turn around its fortunes.

More: Gracie Payton proves that size doesn’t matter behind the plate for Mitchell softball

“Orleans has played some good teams. They’ve got a couple of wins and they only lost by one run to Trinity Lutheran. They’re going to be licking their chops after last year, they’ll want to win this ballgame,” Canada said. “We’ve just got to put all of our stuff together and see what we’ve got.”

The Bluejackets and Bulldogs will square off at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in Orleans.

Contact Times-Mail sports reporter Auston Matricardi via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @amatricardiTM.

This article originally appeared on The Times-Mail: Softball game of the week: Orleans to host Mitchell in PLAC bout

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