In baseball or softball, it only takes one key play or hit to blow things open.
However, it’s always easier said than done.
After obtaining a key one-out RBI double from Brooklyn Hoskins in the bottom of the sixth inning, the New Boston Lady Tigers needed just one base hit to knot the score of a Division IV Sectional Semifinal contest against Western.
Unfortunately for New Boston, that one key hit just didn’t come as the Lady Tigers fell by a 6-5 tally to Western on Monday evening as its season came to a close.
The loss, however, didn’t take away Holbrook’s enthusiasm for what his young unit accomplished throughout the 2017 campaign.
“I’m proud of my girls,” Holbrook said. “They fought hard all year. The girls have excellent fight in them, they just had a little bit of trouble at the plate tonight. I’m very proud of what they’ve done this year. They’ve improved tremendously. We’re young. We’ll be back next year.”
At first, however, it seemed as if New Boston was going to strike with a fury.
In the bottom half of the first inning, the Lady Tigers used a well-pitched first frame by starting hand Taylen Hickman to create a bit of momentum in the bottom half of the same inning, as a single by Madison Salisbury, a hit-by-pitch, and a wild pitch put two Lady Tiger runners in scoring position with two down in the frame.
However, Western’s Jordan Haggy ended the early threat by forcing Tosha Poole into a 5-3 groundout, and, after holding New Boston scoreless in the bottom of the first, created momentum that allowed the Lady Indians to capitalize in the second stanza.
After an infield error allowed Haggy to reach base, a stolen base by Western’s starting pitching hand, an infield single by Chelsea Penwell, a walk by Jadah Pearson, and a wild pitch allowed Haggy to score while Penwell and Pearson each advanced a base.
Even though Western struck with the early run, it still looked as if Hickman was going to get out of trouble as the pitching hand forced Jessica Stevens to pop a ball up into the infield en route to retiring the second batter of the inning. However, a wild pitch to Shalee Gray and an infield error that sailed out of play allowed Penwell and Pearson to score as Western took a 3-0 advantage after two complete frames of work.
“Mental mistakes hurt us,” Holbrook said. “Instead of getting the forceout at a base, they wanted to chase the lead runner and make the big plays. I’m glad to see the girls so eager, but they’ve got to get a little bit more softball savvy. To win games, you have to make the good, solid plays when they can be made.”
Still, New Boston continued to battle.
After taking a hard shot to the ankle off of an infield single by Katlyn Hughes, it looked as if Hickman would have to leave the game for good.
However, the ever-resilient athlete gutted it out, and, after switching positions with Poole, came back in the bottom half of the fourth inning by driving in Mariah Buckley on a RBI single to left-center field to cut the Western lead to a 3-1 advantage after four innings of play.
Hickman, who went two and a third innings in the circle, went 1-for-2 on the evening with the RBI base knock.
“Taylen’s a heck of a softball player,” Holbrook said. “She loves softball. She says that out of all of our sports, she likes softball the best, and it’s rather obvious. To take a hit in the manner that she did, and respond in the way that she did, shows that. I didn’t know if I should pull her or not, but I didn’t want her to be spooked on the mound, and she’s too good of an athlete to leave out there as a target. She’s got a heck of an arm and a heck of a glove.”
While Western added two more runs on a walk, an error, and a RBI double by Haley Whitt to increase the lead to 5-1, New Boston continued to show resiliency in the bottom of the fifth frame, as a walk by Hoskins and a single, along with a stolen base by Kayla Phipps, allowed Hoskins to come home on a 5-3 RBI groundout by Buckley.
New Boston, however, wasn’t finished.
The next batter, Kaylee Stone, responded by ripping a RBI double to left-center field that scored Phipps. Then, after stealing third base, an obstruction play on a hard-hit groundball by Poole allowed Stone to score as the Lady Tigers cut the gap to a 5-4 margin after five full frames of action.
As has been the case throughout their careers, the trio were plenty effective on Monday. The trio combined to draw two walks, score two runs, and drive in a pair of RBI on the evening, with Poole only giving up three runs — one of the earned variety — in four and two-thirds innings of work.
“Tosha, Kaylee, and Mariah are athletes,” Holbrook said. “They like the game. Immediately following the game there, I had (OU-Chillicothe head coach George Beck) here looking at the girls, and he had a couple of really good things to say about Mariah. He was really impressed with her hard work. Kaylee’s a heck of a shortstop, and as far as Tosha is concerned, she’s as reliable as they come. She’s a three-year starter, she’s a good, hard worker, she’s a good pitcher, and she’s improved every year for us.”
But even though New Boston rallied back to cut into the gap, Western kept the pressure on the homestanding Lady Tigers. A leadoff triple by Haggy and two infield errors not only allowed Haggy to score, but also allowed Pearson and Stevens to advance into scoring position with one down.
Poole, however, responded as an upperclassman should — with poise. The junior struck out Gray and forced Hughes into a 5-3 groundout in the sixth inning, which gave New Boston a chance to cut into the lead once again.
The Lady Tigers responded to the strong finish in the top half of the sixth by doing just that, as an infield error on a swinging third strike by Lexus Oiler allowed Hoskins — who went 1-for-2 with a RBI and a run scored — to come up large with her RBI double to left field.
“Brooklyn’s improved tremendously this year, and that’s a credit to her hard work,” Holbrook said. “She’s played very well at Symmes Valley and Vinton County, and she was pretty good tonight. She’ll put a full game together, and I’m sure that I’m going to see good work out of her for the next two or three seasons.”
However, even with those boosts, New Boston couldn’t get the gamebreaking hit.
A bullet of a shot by Phipps — that would’ve scored Hoskins if the ball was six inches to the left or right — was caught by Whitt, and a strikeout, which allowed Western to get out of the jam with the lead intact, followed the Phipps line drive. Poole faced little trouble in the seventh inning, but Hoggy responded by retiring Buckley, Stone, and Poole as Western ended New Boston’s season by taking home a 6-5 victory.
Even though the 2017 season for the Lady Tigers came to a close in heartbreaking fashion, the efforts of Phipps and Salisbury — the team’s lone pair of seniors — won’t be soon forgotten, according to Holbrook.
“They’ve improved tremendously,” Holbrook said. “Madison is going to Eastern Kentucky as a student, and Kayla is in the honors society, so they’ve got their priorities in order. They’ve been great leaders for us. I’m very proud of both of them.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7