GLENWOOD — In the most crucial of moments, New Boston’s Achilles’ heel popped up once again Monday evening.
Playing in a Division IV sectional semifinal, a win or go home situation, against Paint Valley, the Tigers struggled to throw strikes and failed to make routine plays. In affect, the Bearcats took advantage of extra chances given and ended New Boston’s season by a 10-3 final.
“We struggled with pitching early and with basic, routine plays … which has been our issue most of the year,” New Boston coach Brian Holbrook said. “We struggled most of the year but we kept coming back and did what we could. The girls didn’t give up. They never did. I’m proud of that.”
Holbrook consistently noted his roster’s competitive spirit, one that suffered setback after setback due to the injury bug and low numbers. New Boston entered this spring having said goodbye to six seniors from a year ago before losing multiple players to year-ending ailments.
“One thing I can say about my girls this year is that they did not give up at any time,” Holbrook said. “They fought, they worked. Anytime they had a question or wanted to work on anything, we’d give it everything we had.”
The same could be said of Monday’s night’s loss, but Paint Valley simply had too much gas in its tank.
The Bearcats (6-15) sent Abbi Stanforth to the circle and the freshman put forth a spectacular performance to get the job done. In seven innings, Stanforth allowed seven hits, walked three, struck out eight and kept working out of jams at imperative junctures.
Stanforth also runs track and is favored to qualify for regionals in the hurdles events. Paint Valley coach Ryan Smith didn’t even know she was making the trip to New Boston until late Sunday evening. She was choosing between the softball game and her conference track meet.
“I found out [Sunday] night that she was coming to the softball game,” Smith said of Stanforth. “She’s a big track star and she’s really big at hurdles. It shows the character out of her. She could’ve went and ran hurdles. She gave that up tonight, skipped the SVC Meet, to come here and pitch softball. She said, ‘Coach, I want to come pitch and win.’ As a coach, it’s just unbelievable to hear that from a freshman who gave up what she gave up. I love that kid. I’m proud of her. It speaks to how she pitched tonight and how she’s pitched all year long.”
New Boston (5-18) surrendered three runs in the top of the second inning, thanks to an error in the outfield and a bases loaded walk issued to Olivia Smith. The Bearcats then added two more runs in the fifth inning via another defensive miscue and an RBI single from Stanforth.
Down 5-0, New Boston cut the lead to three in the bottom half of the fifth when Lexus Oiler walked with the bases loaded before Morgan Rawlins tallied a sacrifice fly.
In the sixth, with a 5-2 lead, Paint Valley’s Lea McFadden singled home a run before Savannah Smith put the game out of reach for good with a three-run homer over the left field fence. The Bearcats scored their 10th and final run in the seventh on an RBI double from Olivia Smith.
Oiler doubled in the bottom half of the seventh to round out the night’s final but it was much too little, much too late for the Tigers to mount a comeback.
The loss forces New Boston to say goodbye to four seniors in Morgan Rawlins, Katie Whisman, Morgan Kitchen and Ashley Stone.
“Morgan Rawlins has been a positive member of our team for four years. She’s been a really good catcher and she’s set a pretty good standard for that position. Katie came in not being able to do a whole lot, but I wish every kid that I’ve ever coached had the heart that she does,” Holbrook said. “She works hard, she’s a hustler and she gives it everything she’s got. Morgan Kitchen has improved tremendously over the past two or three years and she’s worked at getting better. Ashley has come around and she contributed a lot this year.”
Holbrook also said he plans to have his team ready to compete next year in a way they couldn’t this spring. That will happen with additions to the roster, another year of experience under his veterans’ belts and, as always, putting their nose to the grind.
“We have some girls coming up from junior high that are eager to play and we’ve got a lot of girls that played this season coming back,” Holbrook said. “Kenzie Whitley has done great at third base, Lexus Oiler has worked hard and has surprised us all at shortstop, Taylor Hickman has done a good job in the circle, Sammy Oiler has done well in our rotation as well. We’re looking to make improvements and were looking to come back strong. We’re going to be in the conference race more than we were this year.”
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