NEW MARKET — A rubber match that was for all the marbles lived up to expectations Wednesday night as Southmont and Western Boone clashed for a third time this season in the Class 2A Sectional 38 championship game. The Mounties and Stars split their two prior meetings in the regular season and were set to play for the right to host next weeks Regional. Mother nature would make her impact felt early as in the bottom of the first the game was delayed for nearly 45 minutes before the two Sagamore Conference rival resumed play. The Stars scored all four of their runs in the first three innings, but a combination of phenomenal defense and Sophomore ace Gabbie Lewis on the mound was too much for the Mounties to overcome as they saw their season come to an end in a 4-2 loss.
“Western Boone’s defense was just simply outstanding tonight,” Southmont coach Dan Taylor said. “Gabbie Lewis pitched a phenomenal game and we didn’t really start hitting her well until too late. She held us in check and that’s what great pitchers can do. We’re happy that we didn’t lay down and showed some fight late, but we didn’t have the answer for her tonight.”
Lewis pitched a complete game for the Stars giving up just four hits and two earned runs. When Southmont was able to make contact against the sophomore ace for the Stars, Lewis’s defense backed her up all night long with excellent fielding.
An error by the Mounties in the bottom of the first after play resumed allowed the Stars to get on the board first. An Emily Conyer ground out and a wild pitch scored the two runs in the second for WeBo, then with the bases loaded with Macie Shirk looking like she would get out of a bases loaded nobody out jam, she would hit Emma McClaine for the fourth and final run.
The Mounties bats as Taylor said were able to find life in the fourth inning back-to-back singles by Shirk and Taylor Grino gave the Mounties some momentum. Chelsea Veatch would score Grino on an RBI ground out. Then in the sixth Shirk would double home Lillie Odum for the second Mountie run.
The sectional title is the second straight for Western Boone and Stars coach Mike Vanderpool has seen his team start to peak as the regular season came to an end. On Tuesday the Stars blanked a 20-win Seeger team to take on the Mounties and then in the biggest game of the season, he got another stellar performance from his team all-around.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my girls,” Vanderpool said. “We knew tonight’s game against Southmont was going to be tough with seeing them twice already. Our defense played lights out when we needed them most. Gabbie has exceeded all of my expectations this season and has done a phenomenal job. They’re (Southmont) a tremendous hitting team and for her to hold them to just two runs was impressive.”
Southmont ends it’s season with an overall record 16-6. The Mounties placed third in the Sagamore Conference, were named the county champions, and set numerous offensive records this past season. While the loss stings for the Mounties, Taylor took a moment to reflect on what was an all-around successful year.
“We told the girls to not this game define what they accomplished,” Taylor said. “They should hang their heads high and as they had a fantastic season and I’m just super proud of all them for the work they put in and they year we had.”
The toughest part of a season coming to an end is always saying goodbye to the seniors. Southmont will loose four key seniors from this record-setting team. Shirk, Conkright, Grino, and Hanna Nichols have all contributed to the Mounties in great ways over the course of their career and Taylor knows the impact they have made has been special.
“I’m a lucky guy getting to coach these four girls for all four years,” he said. “They’re great players, leaders and captains and are a coaches dream. Much more than their softball ability, their tremendous student-athletes. They’re just so enjoyable to be around. The thing about this program is that young players keep appearing and we hope to continue making Southmont fans proud of how we play softball.”
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