Defense wins championships
That’s a statement that is usually used in the fall during football season, but its one that Tuscola’s softball team hung their hat on this past spring. The Lady Warriors turned more double plays and delivered more assists this season than the program ever has. They leaned on their pitchers to keep the ball in the park and to throw strikes, and that they did as the ladies in black in gold came out on the right side of nine one-run contests, including a regional championship victory over a good Shelbyville squad.
They didn’t stop there as they captured the team’s third consecutive Central Illinois Conference Championship in thrilling fashion on the road at Macon-Meridian in extra innings. Yet another one-run conquest that leaned on defense late thanks to a double play that stifled the Hawks’ offense. Tuscola erased a four-run lead in the top of the seventh to capture the league crown scoring six runs in the top of the seventh before Isabelle Shelmadine hit a solo shot over the left field fence in the eighth that proved to be the difference.
The solid defensive efforts fueled the offense, and it was no more evident than two games late in the season. Following the big double play at Meridian the Warriors erupted for five straight doubles to overtake the Hawks allowing for Shelmadine’s late heroics. Jackie Watson, Alexis Koester, Allison Clark, Ashtyn Clark, and Kaitlyn Reifsteck all added two baggers to their stat sheet in the game. Offense led the way in a semi-final sectional win over a highly touted Flora team. Tuscola built an early lead then squashed a Lady Wolves rally in the third with a double play fueling a late offense surge that propelled the Warriors into the Sweet 16. Shelmadine, Claire and Kendyl Ring, and Allison Clark all donated multiple hits to the cause capturing the Warriors 29th win of the year.
In all, the three seniors Shelmadine, Koester, and Clark led the team to a 29-7 record this year and collected 120 wins during their time with the Warriors capturing three conference titles, two regional titles, a sectional title, a sweet sixteen berth, three Tuscola Invite Championships and a berth in the elite eight.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, June 20 edition of The Tuscola Journal.