Pats edged out by Warriors 1-0 in semistateJune 2, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER ― The Heritage Hills softball team had been here before, just last week in fact as they rode out a 1-0 lead for seven innings to defeat the Jasper Wildcats in the regional final. However, Saturday’s result would go the other way on them. Even though they fought hard in the face of a stifling pitching assault from Danville, the Patriots could not get that one big swing they needed as they fell to the Warriors 1-0 in the semistate semifinal.
Heritage Hills' head coach Joe Asbury wished the Patriots (17-14-1) could have had a bit more time to see pitches from Warrior sophomore starter Savannah Jones as maybe that could have been the difference between getting that timely hit that eluded the lineup all afternoon. Asbury also praised his starter Emma Eubank for holding her own and keeping the Pats in it, but he couldn’t take away from Jones and the great effect she was able to have on the pitcher’s duel with her high fastball and changeup.
“A little more fun to win one 1-0 than to lose one,” he said. “Their pitcher was fantastic, she did a great job with the changeup, and that just goes to show you that you have to throw the ball harder to win games. If we would have played nine innings, maybe we would have had more shots at-bat and been more comfortable with her. Her changeup really kept us off and it sped up her fastball.”
The first two innings were sparse in the scoring department, but both teams took their turns threatening home plate. Warriors sophomore shortstop Ella Brinkley singled for the first hit of the game, then advanced to second base as senior second baseman Cassidy Tewes hit into a force out play at first. She then took off for third during sophomore right fielder Abigail Yarnell’s at-bat, but Pats senior catcher Sierra Schipp was on alert and picked her off on the attempt to close the top of the first. The bottom of the inning saw junior third baseman Brianna Quinn and senior first baseman Lauren Caswell reach the bags after a respective single and walk, but that would as far the Patriots advanced as Jones struck out the next two batters in quick succession.
Yarnell led off the top of second with a double before advancing to second after junior third baseman Delanie Jones hit into a force out at first base. Sophomore catcher Adriana Taylor drew a walk to add another runner on the base paths, but it wound up becoming a non-factor as senior designated player Brianna Eldridge hit into a double play. The bottom of the second proved to be just as fruitless for the Patriots as three of their four batters fell victim to the strikeout to keep the game scoreless.
The brief flash of the game’s scoring action would be witnessed in the third inning. Sophomore center fielder Courtney Kenworthy took a walk to first base before getting advanced to second after a single from Savannah Jones. They were followed by a second single from Brinkley that loaded the bases. Then Tewes stepped up and sent a single up the middle of the field to drive in Kenworthy. And it was that series of singles that proved to be the difference in the game.
The Patriots did threaten the scoreboard a couple more times as they were able to advance runners to third base in the third and sixth innings. But the Warriors always turned in a timely out to get themselves out of trouble, either in the form of a playable pop-foul or a door slamming strikeout.
Eubank finished the game with five hits for one run and four walks. Eubank, Quinn, and Caswell registered the team’s only hits.
Jones totaled four hits, one walk, and sixteen strikeouts. Tewes finished 2-for-4 with the game’s lone RBI.
“Danville’s a great team and I thought we fought really well against them,” said Eubank. “We brought our all, that’s all we could ask for.”
“Just wished we could have got our hits going,” added Caswell. “We were anxious and in a way that hurt us. Some girls pulled it together and we got on base. We just needed that luck.”
Despite the close loss, the team ended their season with a positive outlook on what they were able to accomplish during the spring. Not only did they repeat as sectional champions, but they made history in winning the school’s first regional title in softball.
The team will only graduate four seniors so they are confident about their core moving forward, but Asbury will look for a team effort to pick up some of the offensive production and leadership that came with this class of seniors.
“We don’t expect anybody to come in and be Lauren Caswell next year,” said Asbury. “We expect everybody that comes back to have more hits, add those up, and that will get us to replace Caswell. We’re going to have people step up with their leadership. Everybody’s going to have to do a little bit more, but no one has to go crazy.”
“I hope we can just take this as motivation,” added Eubank as she looks toward next season. “We have some good girls coming up. Hopefully we can just come back stronger.”
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