Freedom’s Hannah Williams has been magnificent on the mound all season (and for several seasons, in fact). But she made one mistake against the Cowboys (shouldn’t that be Cowgirls?): a changeup to Kaitlyn Taylor that was belt-high over the middle of the plate and seemed to hang in mid-air, waiting for Taylor to belt it over the right-centerfield fence and knock in Katie Keller, who had singled.
The two-run blast landed to the left of the Sports Medicine for Young Athletes banner. The Falcons could have used some sports medicine after that – perhaps an offensive booster shot to counter Livermore pitcher Jessica Varady, who threw hard and placed her pitches well – but it never arrived.
The Falcons, who had scored six runs in each of their previous three games and have averaged six runs against league opponents this season, were able to muster only three hits against Varady, who set them down 1-2-3 in the first three innings – and they were never able to mount a serious scoring threat.
On the plus side, Williams recovered from the opening setback and kept Freedom in the game by not allowing another run, despite several threats by Livermore. She struck out 10 – one of which ended an inning with Livermore runners on first and second, another with runners on second and third.
Williams was among several Falcons with tears in their eyes as they hugged each other and Manager Jeff Jonas after the awards ceremony.
“It was one swing of the bat – one pitch,” said Williams. “I thought that we could come back. But Jessica did really well. It’s how it goes sometimes. It’s the first home run I have given up all season.”
Despite the loss, it’s been a great season for Freedom, which ended up 23-4 overall and undefeated in league play.
“We played really well,” said Williams. “We had people fill spots that they normally wouldn’t play. We had a lot of people who came up and stepped up this year. It’s just sad that we didn’t come out with the win, but, you know, it happens.”
Although the game marked the end of Williams’ high school career, it’s not the end of the Williams’ dynasty at Freedom. Hannah followed in the footsteps of her older sister Amanda, who was a star pitcher for the team; and her younger sister Madison, who will be a freshman next year, also pitches and throws “really well,” said Williams. “Watch out for Freedom next year.”
The Falcons, who have won seven NCS championships in nine years, look in good shape to continue their winning ways next year, considering that only four players are graduating: Chrissy Stalf, Susan Robertson, Chelsea Hennings and Williams.
“It was a real pleasure coaching my four seniors,” said Jonas. “ I was pleased to get a chance to work with them. I probably learned a lot more from them than they learned from me. The younger girls are awesome kids. They’re full of enthusiasm and passion for the game; they’re fun to work with.
“I have to tip my hat to Livermore. We are a very good team. That girl (Varady) pitched a great game today. The defense played great behind her and they hit the ball when they needed to. I was impressed with Livermore.”
On a side note, there almost might not have been a championship game played Saturday; Freedom might have been forced to forfeit. That’s because much of the outfield near the fence was under water after a groundskeeper forgot to turn off the sprinklers overnight.
Jonas notified Freedom’s baseball Manager Gary Alexander, who had his team come over and help fix the problem that morning, despite having their own championship game to play at the Oakland Coliseum later that day (which they won, by the way). They poured out 30 bags of kitty litter and used an industrial-strength vacuum to suck out the extra water.
“That’s how Gary is,” said Jonas. “They have the biggest game in Freedom baseball history today, and he sent his kids out here to do that. It saved us. It just shows what kind of class he has and what kind of class we have at Freedom.”
Jonas, who is in his second year as manager after three years as an assistant coach at Freedom, also discussed the great season his team put together and why the program has been so successful over the years.
“There’s a very high standard here. If you don’t win the whole thing, then we kind of feel like we are not successful,” he said. “But you have to look at the season in total; you can’t look at it by one game, win or lose. We accomplished things as a group as far as how they deal with each other and hold themselves up on campus; we did community work out there. They write letters at the end of the season about how they bonded as a team and are close as a group. I’m proud of these kids.
“It’s been a great season. I would have liked to have won; obviously, I’m pretty competitive. But just getting to work with the girls, it felt like we won in that aspect anyway. For seven years we had kids named Williams pitching for us – that helps a lot.
“I think the parents (of many of the players) have a lot to do with it. You hear horror stories about parents. But they get them to summer ball, they drive them (to practices), half of them have batting cages or catch for their daughters. They have been very supportive. Whatever I have needed, they have been there. With that kind of support it’s hard not to win.”