Monday, September 16, 2019

Warriors Softball falls in 9-inning Regional Final

The coaches speak to the Warriors after their 9-inning, 4-1 loss to Dunlap Middle in a AA Regional Final, all as the sun has set behind them in Farmington. PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
Farmington, Ill. - Any regional championship brings a lot of intensity. An extra-innings, battling the light before darkness settled in - that kind of regional championship? That's a good one. Unfortunately for the Germantown Hills Warriors, it didn't end up on their side.

It was a nip and tuck, hard-fought battle, all the way until the 9th inning, when the opposing Dunlap Middle School Panthers put a 3-spot up in the top half to set the final score of 4-1, and ending the Warriors' season. 

It's an effort that has Germantown Hills Head Coach Patrick Vaughan reminiscing on what the team was like, while also having a lot of praise for the quality of the Panthers' team. 

"Yeah, it was a tough game. Those girls can hit. To hold that team to one run in eight innings, you'd think you'd win 100 times out of 100, but them and Tremont are probably the two best hitting teams we've faced all year."

Emotions will certainly factor in, particularly post-game after a season-ending loss. Vaughan echoed that.

"It just stinks. We had a lot of chances. Our girls showed a lot of guts."

It means a lot to Coach Vaughan. Fighting back tears and getting choked up, he tried to piece together what this team and this program means to him.

"It's kind of a hard one to answer. A lot of these kids, I've known them for a long time, as a coach and as a teacher, a parent of a friend of theirs. They put in a lot of time and effort - through the summer, after practice, during practice. These girls, all of them have done everything we ask."

He says, seeing the players emotional and particularly crying as well. He thinks that's a good sign.

"When they're out here crying, they're crying because it means a lot to them and they put the energy in." 

When prompted as to what word or phrase would encapsulate the team in this 2019 fall, he paused, thinking over it carefully, before coming up with his selection. Character.

"They got a lot of character. They don't give up. They fight until the very end."

While the sting of a season being in the books is present, some of the players won't have long before they turn the page to the basketball season.

The 2019 Season Opener for GHMS Girls Basketball is at the Morton Junior Potters on Tuesday, September 24th, at 4:30pm. The home opener is Thursday, September 26th, at 5:00pm, against Dunlap Valley.

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In-Game

Something has to give. Someone has to win. It is a regional final after all.

It was the Dunlap Panthers that jumped on board early, with an RBI single from right fielder Brooklyn Millhollin, just four batters in.

That situation is one that 7th-grade pitcher Nora Johnson isn't all too familiar being in, but despite that being the case, she certainly rebounded from that.

In fact, other than a two-hit third inning, Dunlap Middle was unable to even crack into the hit column against Johnson for quite a long time.

As Coach Vaughan said in his post-game interview, the Warriors sure had their chances to answer that 1-0 Panther lead, but were unable to slip into the run column.

Finally, after a sacrifice bunt from Bri Bessert, that was followed up by Johnson getting an RBI sacrifice bunt as well, scoring the Warriors' first run and tying it up in a critical bottom of the sixth.

After both sides went scoreless in the seventh inning, it was official. This game would take extra innings. It would be the first extra innings game of 2019 for Germantown Hills, and first since falling 3-2 in a Regional Final a year ago.

But before it even got to extras, it looked like the Panthers were going to take a lead again. Bases loaded - two outs. It was a big situation for Johnson, but she took a deep breath in the circle, and fired in a strikeout to allow the Panthers to strand the bases loaded.

The eighth inning - it came and went. No runs. It would take a full nine innings to find a winner.

For those that were in attendance, it was around this time that one would start thinking if the game would get in without a potential suspension due to darkness. After the umpires had a brief discussion in between innings and informed both head coaches of their decision, the game would proceed, believing they could get the game in before darkness officially set in.

The top of the 9th. The Warriors needed to hold the Panthers and go for a walkoff in the bottom of the ninth. That would not happen.

The Panthers exploded for three runs in the top half, coming on back-to-back RBI singles, one scoring a single run and the next one scoring two to set the final score.

Area IESA Softball Scores:
(AA)
Tremont def. Morton JHS, 8-0
Olympia def. Normal Kingsley, 6-2
(A)
Streator Woodland def. Wenona Fieldcrest, 3-2
Brimfield def. Kewanee Wethersfield, 5-0
Limestone Walters def. Princeville, 8-2



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