Bombers cap season with third-place trophy

Bombers cap season with third-place trophy

EAST PEORIA — The experience proved more than what Bailey Benton, Tatiana Garcia, Lydia Hays, Mikayla Kirkland, Maggie Millington and Amanda Peterson could have imagined.

In a good way.

The six Argenta-Oreana softball seniors capped their careers with a win, thanks to a 3-1 victory against Spoon River Valley on Saturday afternoon in the Class 1A third-place game at EastSide Centre.

"Watching them progress to see what they've become has been truly amazing," said Angie Ridgeway, A-O's coach who was an assistant in the program during the Class of 2018's freshman season before becoming the head coach when they were sophomores. "We all got teary-eyed. I couldn't be more proud of them and how they got to finish their senior year."

A-O (20-9) already knew it would bring home the program's first-ever state trophy this weekend, but the Bombers made sure to close the season in good fashion against the Vikings (18-4).

Freshman Cassi Newbanks tossed a complete game, striking out seven and only yielding four hits, pitching with a lead the entire game.

Camilyn Newbanks doubled with one out in the top of the first and scored on an error after Garcia put the ball in play to give A-O a 1-0 lead. The elder Newbanks brought Benton home with an RBI single in the third to put A-O ahead 2-0, and the Bombers increased their lead to 3-1 in the sixth on an RBI single by Kirkland.

The bounceback effort wasn't surprising to Ridgeway, despite Friday's 5-3 loss to eventual state champion Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg in the state semifinals.

"We went out and had fun as a team on Friday night," Ridgeway said. "We really wanted to focus on coming back and playing our game. We were very pumped and ready to go. Our team wanted to win this not only for the seniors, but for everyone involved with our program."

The fact A-O found itself playing on the final day of the small-school softball season didn't seem all that likely a month ago.

A difficult schedule had A-O only 10-7 on April 28, but the Bombers were able to become the first A-O softball team to win a regional title, sectional title, super-sectional title and wind up with a state trophy.

"I knew we had it in us, but we do play a hard nonconference schedule," Ridgeway said. "Our goal this year was to win a regional. Once they hit that, they didn't want to look back. It all came together for us at the right time."

And it carried the Bombers to heights unseen before. Add in the fact A-O was one of only two 1A schools to end its season with a win made everything the Bombers accomplished this season even sweeter.

"I've been playing softball and watching softball my whole life," Ridgeway said. "I've lived vicariously through the girls the last few years, and I'm so excited and happy for them. Our fans were great, too, and they followed us wherever we went. It's been an amazing journey."

Sections (3):Prep Sports, Sports, Softball