By Will Willems Sports Editor
Western Boone senior softball standout Taylor Vanderpool was nervous.
But she certainly didn’t show it. The Stars’ shortstop came up with a runner on first and her team trailing by a run in the bottom of the seventh.
One pitch later, the Stars were victorious after Vanderpool cracked a 2-run homer to centerfield to give Western Boone a 12-11 win over Tri-West.
“I was even telling people in the dugout how nervous I was,” Vanderpool said. “But I was just thinking that if one of the first two girls in the inning got on, I had to do my job. I wanted to make sure I hit the ball hard and at least moved them up a base, and it ended up being even more.”
The Stars trailed 11-10 heading into the final inning. Reagan Barton flew out to start the inning, but Alayna Raby singled to put the tying run at first base for Vanderpool.
She wasted little time in delivering, sending the Stars’ dugout into a frenzy.
“Usually I let the first strike go, that is something I have been trying to fix,” Vanderpool said. “I knew if the pitch was in there, I was going to hit it as hard as I can.”
The walk-off home run capped off what had been a crazy final couple of inning for Western Boone.
The Stars led 9-3 heading into the sixth inning, but allowed eight runs on three hits, two errors, two walks and three dropped third strikes.
Suddenly, the six-run lead was a two-run deficit. All three of the dropped third strikes and one of the errors came with two outs, when it could have got the Stars out of the innng.
“I applaud Julia (Hole) and Camryn (Savage) because they have never caught before,” Western Boone head coach Mike Vanderpool said. “But they are a little inconsistent right now. They have to relax behind the plate. I do applaud them for stepping up, because we were hurting in that position, and they are working hard. They just have to relax and keep having fun.”
Western Boone started to come back in the sixth, loading the bases with one out. Briley Burns drew a bases loaded to force in a run, but a double play on a pop up ended the threat.
The Stars turned a double play of their own in the top of the seventh to set-up Vanderpool’s heroics in the bottom of the seventh.
“Our girls didn’t lay down after the one bad inning we had,” the Stars’ coach said. “We started fighting back the next half inning and gave ourselves a chance. We hit the ball well all night, but we have to cut down on our baserunning and fielding errors.”
WeBo took a 3-0 lead in the second, getting a 2-run single from Burns and an RBI-double from Reagan Barton.
Every Star player reached base at least twice on Thursday. After totaling just seven runs in two losses to Southmont in a double-header on Friday, Vanderpool said it was good to see his team’s bats come to life against Tri-West.
“When you No. 9 batter hits one off the fence, that is a good day for your offense,” Vanderpool said. “We had a bad night against Southmont. It is a tough place to play over there and we just had a bad Friday night. But the girls put that behind them and stepped up at the plate tonight.”
Tri-West scored in a run in the top of the third, but Western Boone got two in the bottom of the inning, getting a solo home run from Vanderpool and an RBI-fielders’ choice off the bat of Julia Hole.
It was Vanderpool’s fifth home run of the season, all coming at home.
Tri-West scored two unearned runs in the fourth, but the Stars grabbed control right back in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with no outs. Olivia Hole drove the ball off the fence for a 2-run double, then a wild pitch plated a third run.
Two batters later Savage hit an RBI-single to make it 9-3 and set-up the final two innings.
Vanderpool was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Burns was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and Julia Hole was 3-for-3 with one run scored and one RBI. Olivia Hole was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs.
The win improved the Stars to 8-7 and 4-4 in the Sagamore Conference.
“I think it is a huge win,” Taylor Vanderpool said. “We never gave up, we had a lot of ups and downs, and it was a huge conference win. Besides Lebanon, conference has been crazy this year and we have shown we can hang with anyone.”
The two teams meet again today at Tri-West.
“I think we can carry this over,” coach Vanderpool said. “If we play the way we did tonight and clean up some errors, we have a good chance. But we have to be ready to go because they are going to have home field advantage and want revenge.”