BY WILL WILLEMS – SPORTS EDITOR
CRAWFORDSVILLE — For the first time since 2009, Softball Sectional 25 will have a new champion.
Western Boone had fivestraight batters reach with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, topping sixthranked Lebanon 7-6 on a walk-off single by Olivia Hole.
”This is a huge win and I am really proud of my girls,” Western Boone head coach Mike Vanderpool said. “But, we aren’t going to over celebrate because we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We have a big game tomorrow night now against Frankfort and our goal is to win a sectional championship. Our girls are excited now, but we have to get them calmed down because we still have a big goal to go.”
Lebanon came into the game with a couple of long streaks.
The Tigers had won fivestraight sectional titles and 45-straight games against Sagamore Conference opponents (and 95 of the last 96).
Both of the losses in that streak are now to Western Boone. Lebanon had also knocked Western Boone out of the sectional the past five seasons.
”We had a great season,” Lebanon head coach Shane Britt said. “We went 21-4 and we played hard all year long. We are going to lose three great seniors and it is going to be hard to replace them. We have to go back to the drawing board and have some younger girls step up.”
Lebanon led 6-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Tiger starter Jessica Weaver got a line out and a strike out to start the inning, leaving the Stars with just one out.
WeBo senior Paige Poole kept the inning alive with a single up the middle, then classmate Ashley Burns walked to put the go-ahead run on first base.
Camryn Savage singled to center to load the bases for freshman Briley Burns, who drew a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game.
Then Hole stepped up and lined a single to center to plate courtesy runner Shelby Medley to win the game.
”Paige had a great at bat to keep us alive,” Vanderpool said. “She was 0-for-3 at that point and she kept her head up and got the big hit for us. Then the bottom half of our lineup really came through. They had been struggling, but we had some young girls step up in pressure situations.”
Britt gave credit to the Stars’ lineup as well.
After only managing one hit in the first five innings, the Stars had seven in the final two, scoring four runs.
”The bottom of their order came through for them,” Britt said. “They came through the inning before and the seventh too. We missed some pitches and they earned those runs. They had some good, timely hits all game long.”
Western Boone scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead.
Lebanon tied the game in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly by Makayla Copeland, but the Stars reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the third when Ashley Burns belted a 2-run homer to left field to make it 3-1.
Burns was 2-for-3 in the game with a walk and her spot scored three times (twice with courtesy runners).
”That was probably the best game she played all year,” Vanderpool said. “She did a great job behind the plate and worked really hard. The 2-run homer was huge. That really sparked our girls.”
The Tigers mounted a comeback in the fifth inning.
Lebanon loaded the bases with no outs and got a run on an RBI-single by Jessica Weaver.
It looked like Western Boone may get out of the inning with the lead thanks to a double play, but with two outs Kassidi Cadle singled home Hannah Dybalski to make it a 3-3 game.
After the Stars were retired in order in the bottom of the fifth, the Tiger bats went back to work.
An error and a single put two runners on for Brooke Montgomery, who hit a run-scoring single to make it a 4-3 game.
Whitney Cosgray then reached on an error that allowed another run to score before Dybalski hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-3.
Britt said the late innings had been big for the Tigers throughout the year.
”In previous years, we have had the offense to put teams away and this year we weren’t that team,” Britt said. “We have been letting teams stay close all year long and continue to peck away and get things going in the fourth and fifth innings. We just ran out of time today.”
Rather then get discouraged by falling down by three, the Stars came right back.
Ashley Burns, Savage and Briley Burns hit threestraight one-out singles to load the bases.
Hole followed with a 2-run double to left to cut the lead to 6-5. Weaver got two strike outs to end the threat and keep Lebanon’s lead at one heading into the final inning.
”We just told them that we were still in the game,” Vanderpool said. “We knew we could hang with them. We did a good job that next inning in being disciplined and not chasing balls out of the strike zone. We made her pitch to us. The umpire had a tight strike zone, so we didn’t want to chase anything.”
Between Burns 2-run homer and her single in the sixth, Weaver had retired nine-straight batters with five strike outs in that stretch.
Britt said he thinks the Stars were able to get used to Weaver’s pitching after seeing her twice in the regular season and a couple times on Monday.
”I think the strike zone changed on her a little bit and she was having troubles finding the zone,” Britt said. “You can never count Western Boone out because they always come back at you. They have seen good pitching, this was the third time they saw Jess and they weren’t intimidated.”
The Stars now advance to the sectional semifinals, where they will face Frankfort tonight at approximately 7 p.m.
North Montgomery vs. Crawfordsville will be the first game at 5 p.m.
The Hot Dogs beat Western Boone in two games two weeks ago, 10-3 and 6-5.
”If we play like this we will be in good shape,” Vanderpool said. “It is hard to compare teams because you match up differently, but Lebanon run ruled Frankfort both times and Frankfort beat us twice, so you never know. But if we play our type of ball, it will be a good game.”
After that second loss, Western Boone went 4-2 and averaged nine runs a game offensively.
”We are playing our best ball right now,” Vanderpool said. “Our seniors are stepping up and we aren’t done. They don’t want the season to end and this is a good time to bring it all together. Hopefully we can bring it again tomorrow night.”
WESTERN BOONE’S CASSIDY SHEPHERD makes a catch in center field Monday afternoon in the Stars’ 7-6 win over Lebanon.
Photos by Will Willems | The Lebanon Reporter