By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion softball team ended its season in sectional play in a 14-3 loss against Chatham-Glenwood in an IHSA 2A Softball Sectional Semifinal.
In the top of the first, the Braves’ offense struck first. Gwen Bender was issued a walk with one out. Bender stole second base and got herself into scoring position.
Kayla Schnippel stepped to the plate and hit a single to left field to drive in Bender to make the score 1-0. Dakota Harrison got the start on the mound and pitched two shutout innings to begin the game.
In the top of the third, Bender hit a single right underneath the third baseman’s glove and down the left-field line. Harrison came up two batters later and hit a ball to the left-field wall to bring in Bender and give the Braves a 2-0 lead.
The Titans struck back in the bottom of the third. Claire Black with two runners on-base hit a three-run shot over the left-field wall to give the Titans a 3-2 lead. Cassie Feld followed that at-bat with a solo home-run over the center-field wall to give the Titans a 4-2 lead.
Black added to the Titans’ lead in the bottom of the fourth. With the bases loaded and a 1-1 count, Black hit a grand slam over the left-field wall to give the Titans an 8-2 lead.
“I thought after the first show, we had a chance to come back,” Head coach Greg Blakey said. “The grand slam kind of did us in momentum wise and confidence wise.”
The Braves added a run in the top of the fifth and the Titans scored six in the sixth to make the final score 14-3.
The Braves ended their season with an overall record of 21-15 and a 7-5 Apollo Conference Record. The Braves claimed their 21st regional title in program history and Coach Blakey’s 21st overall regional title.
“It was a strange year,” Coach Blakey said. “Earlier in the year if I would have been asked if we’d be here, I would’ve said no. nothing was easy for us as far as teaching fundamentals as far as getting things done, but credit to the girl that persevered through and found ways to get better you know, the girls credit the kind of persevere through it found ways to get better and we got here while clicking well at the right time.”
The Braves graduated four seniors in Bender, Lauren Waller, Sierra Hiser and Jaycie Higar.
“They were grinders and the seniors grinded all year for us,” Coach Blakey said. “They worked hard and they set the tone when things were going badly. They really grabbed the team by the bootstraps and pulled them up and capitalized through the bad times.”
The Braves return a core of starters in Harrison, Schnippel, Kennedy Highley, Molly Besser, Audri Johnson. Karlie Teel, Anna Cox and Jolie Shafed.
“The message to the young kids is that the bottom line is we have to get better,” Coach Blakey said. “The expectation now is that we’re back here again next year. We’d love to win a conference which we’re both capable of but find ways this summer to get better.”