The Falcons looked good entering the bottom of the seventh inning. They were nursing a 3-2 lead and Logan’s bottom two hitters were slated to lead off. Playing in her last high school game, Freedom shortstop Kim Westlund made a fantastic diving stop, but was unable to keep the hitter from reaching base. The Falcons then misplayed a sacrifice bunt attempt, putting Logan runners on second and third with nobody out.
Freedom pitcher Madison Williams forced a fly ball to left field, which was caught by Kristie Strelo, who proceeded to make a strong throw in, freezing the runners. Logan’s next hitter, Laelonie Zamora, laid down a squeeze bunt. Williams pounced on the ball but failed to cut down the runner at home, allowing the tying run to cross the plate.
Zamora took off from first to second, drawing a Niki Kaleialii throw that sailed into center field, where Malena Padilla was alertly backing up second base. The Logan runner who had reached third on the bunt went sprinting for home. Padilla made a good throw – just not good enough – and the run scored to end the game.
Summing up the last half inning, Freedom Manager Jeff Jonas said: “Defensively, they put the ball in play, and we didn’t make the plays. We’ve got to play catch – that’s rule number one, whether you’re eight or 18. I thought we had some base-running mistakes that we haven’t made all year. I don’t know what we were doing over there a couple of times, trying to take third for no apparent reason.”
Two of Freedom’s three runs were bittersweet. After Logan took a 2-1 lead in the second inning, Freedom tied the game in the top of the third on a double from Jackie Zepeda, which scored Padilla. But then Zepeda broke a cardinal rule by trying to advance to third and making the final out of an inning at third base.
Freedom took the lead the following inning on a Logan throwing error that allowed Kaleialii to reach base. Sarah Osborn scored when the Logan right fielder overthrew everyone on what seemed like a routine throw back into the infield. Kaleialii and the Falcons repeated the same mistakes of the previous inning when she was cut down trying to get to third base, ending the inning.
Freedom got on the board in the second inning when Katie Wood lined a one-out single that scored Zepeda. Wood advanced to third when the Logan right fielder misplayed the ball and let it get to the wall. Wood was cut down at the plate when Osborn grounded out to the shortstop. That out was made more painful for Freedom when the next hitter, Kaleialii, hit a single to left field that would have scored Wood from third.
Williams pitched a complete game for Freedom, striking out eight hitters, allowing eight hits and walking two batters. The best thing for Freedom to take out of this game is that their young nucleus – including Williams, who will be a sophomore – will return next season.
“We’re lucky; we’re blessed with some big talented young kids that work hard,” said Jonas. “They’re going to need to continue to work hard if they want to be back here next year. And I think they will; I think they are those kinds of kids. They like to work hard, they like being coached – kind of tough-minded. We’ve got a good young battery coming back next year, and I think we should have a good chance to win some games.”
While Jonas was excited about the youth of his team, he was frustrated by what his seniors had to go through on their graduation day. “Our seniors have had a long day today. Most of them started at 6 or 6:30 this morning for graduation. It’s too bad that they couldn’t find a way, in all of NCS’ infinite wisdom, to not play on a school’s graduation.
“It’s one thing when they play on proms, because that’s just something that we have to deal with. But graduations are days where the kids should be with their families. I was proud of our seniors to get out here and be as focused as they were.”
Jonas summed up the 23-4 season, saying, “I would call this season a major success. I don’t think many people thought that we’d be back in this after we lost Hannah (Williams), Susan (Robertson), Chrissy (Stalf) and Chelsea (Hennings) last year. The kids worked really hard and we believed, whether other people did or not. It would have been nice to finish out with a win, but we’ve done a lot of things that were more important than what the scoreboard read this year.
“They’re good kids, they work hard – what else do you want? Sometimes it’s more important on how you deal with failure than how you deal with success. I think they’ll bounce back and you’ll see them doing great things; whether that’s as a softball player or in a job or anything else. They’re just good, solid people.”
To read about the Freedom/Heritage match, click here.