South Whitley – Western Boone head softball coach Mike Vanderpool wanted starting pitcher Hannah Redlin to get past one more batter.
The plan all along coming into the regional contest with Whitko was to have Redlin face the Wildcats the first two times through the line-up, then to bring in junior Heather Clark.
With the Stars down 1-0 and a runner on third with two outs in the fifth, Redlin was facing No. 9 hitter Madison Smith – a .296 hitter with just one home run on the year.
Redlin’s 1-0 pitch was a good low, down in the zone, but Smith was Abe to connect and hit it deep to left, off top of the fence and over for a 2-run home run that proved to be the difference in a 3-2 loss for the Stars.
“I am proud of our girls,” Vanderpool said. “Their pitcher was tough, and she did a great job. I am so proud of our kids for the way they battled and fought back. We wanted to make that turn in the order one more time before bringing Heather in and their girl just turned on one and hit in over the fence. It is just one of those things that it was that girl’s night and power to them. They were the better team tonight.”
Neither team could get anything going in the first three innings.
Western Boone had just two base runners in its first four at bats, a 1-out single by Hillary Reed in the first and a 1-out walk by Reed in the fourth. The Stars managed just four hits in the game against Whitko starter Ellie Snep, and struck out six times.
“She has a good curveball and it moves a lot,” Vanderpool said. “We were chasing it too much. A lot of our kids were pulling their heads on it and they couldn’t touch it. We made some adjustments later, but she was really good.”
Whitko got an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth.
After a 1-out single, the Stars had a ground ball that could have been a double play, but the throw to first was wide and moved a runner into scoring position. Reannon Hopkins followed with an RBI-single to make it 1-0.
“We knew that first run was important,” Vanderpool said. “We said coming up here that the team that scored first was going to put pressure on the other team. We knew that first run was huge and unfortunately they got it.”
Western Boone got a lead-off double from Redlin in the fifth, but she was stranded there. Whitko got the 2-run home run from Smith in the bottom half of the inning, but the Stars got on the board in the sixth when Alayna Raby tripled to right center, then scored when the throw to third was wild.
Clark allowed back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the sixth, but got a pop out and strike out to keep the score at 3-1.
In the seventh, Victoria Grimes reached first on a one-out error, and after a ground out, Molly Crawford’s line-drive to center was dropped, scoring Grimes and putting the tying run on first.
Anna Jones tried to give the Stars some 9-hole magic of their own, but her hard hit grounder was fielded by the shortstop right at the second base bag for the final out.
Redlin took the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in 4 2/3 innings. She struck out two. Clark pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief.
Western Boone finishes the season 21-10.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of them,” Vanderpool said. “We were 21-10 and hit that 20-win mark and won a sectional. We placed third in a really tough conference and had a chance to win it in the final week. We couldn’t have asked for a better season.”
The Stars lose their top two hitters in Raby and Briley Burns, as well as Lindsay Savage, but return everyone else.
In Tuesday’s starting line-up the Stars had a freshmen, five sophomores, and two juniors.
“In the next couple of years, you are going to see this team here again,” Vanderpool said. “We have five sophomores and a freshmen starting on this team, so they have to learn from this and get back. I am proud of them and what they did. We lose two seniors in strong positions, but we had a young group that will continue to get better.”