BY JOHN DUBOIS
An up and down season for the Westville Tigers ended with a strong effort in the championship game of the IHSA Class 2A Bismarck softball regional but it wasn’t enough as the top-seeded and No. 6-ranked St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans got out to a fast start and defeated the Tigers 12-5.
The Spartans scored 11 of their runs in the first three innings.
“For whatever reason we were a half step to a full step slow defensively early in the game,” said Westville coach Shawn Skinner. “We knew we would have to play defensively the same way we did in the semifinal win over Georgetown and we weren’t able to do that. St. Joseph was able to exploit that with their offense, but in the last week or so we began to execute well offensively and we put a lot of pressure on them today and you have to feel good about.”
The Tigers got on the board in the top of the first with back to back doubles from seniors Bobbi Morris and Ashley Hoffman, but the Spartans answered back with five runs in the bottom of the inning.
SJO would add three more in the bottom of the second, but the Tigers responded with four runs in the top of the third on a sacrifice fly from Morris, a run scoring single from fellow senior Carson Richardson, an RBI double from Ji’Cee Lacey and an RBI sacrifice bunt from Courtney Gabehart.
“We gave ourselves a chance in this game with our offense,” Skinner said. “We listened, competed, and stuck to the plan.”
The Spartans would add three more in the bottom of the third to make the score 11-5. Following a scoreless fourth for both teams, a potential momentum changing play fell just short for the Tigers when Lacey flied out to the fence in center with one on and one out in the fifth.
“The ball just died at the end and missed being a two run home run by about a foot,” Skinner said. “That was a big swing in the game because your back to within four runs and you have the possibility to tie the game with one swing of the bat.”
The Spartans would close out the scoring with a run in the sixth.
The Tigers end their season at 13-10 and it was the final game for Richardson, Morris, and Hoffman and fellow seniors Kaitlyn Swisher, Alexis Miller, Danielle Gabehart and Lauren Scott.
“Carson is as good a team player as we have ever had in our program,” Skinner said. “She bought into what we were doing, she was a smart, coachable player, and she maximized her potential as a pitcher and a hitter. On and off the field she was all you could hope for and we will miss her.
“Bobbi had a tremendous senior season, played multiple positions for us, and did everything we ever asked her to do. Ashley made a lot of plays for us the last two years and is someone we are going to miss in a variety of ways. Kaitlyn was an absolute outfield junkie who just loved to catch fly balls and she made herself into a very nice hitter. Alexis Miller is the kind of player you just don’t see much anymore. She didn’t get a lot of playing time, but got some pinch hits for us, and she was a dedicated member of the team and a great kid.
“Danielle will be moving on to Olney Central with Carson and as with Ashley we will miss her in a variety of ways. Lauren Scott didn’t start out in our program but she brought a lot to our outfield defense and did things the right way. They are a great group of kids and I hope they walk away from the team and the season having learned about dealing with the ups and downs in life and that the experience with the team will help them as adults.”