Growing pains for Chargers
MOUNT ZION — Lexi Hall prefers the positive approach.
The Centennial junior softball shortstop didn’t view Wednesday’s 12-0 loss to state-ranked Chatham Glenwood as an end to a season as much as she saw it as the start of preparations for the next season.
“I’ll play summer softball this year, and next year I’ll look to step into a leadership role,” Hall said.
Seven of the 10 Chargers who played against Chatham Glenwood — ranked 19th in Class 3A — were underclassmen, including sophomore pitcher Danielle Staske.
“This (loss) is fuel to motivate us for next year,” Staske said. “I’ve been a believer in our team.”
To make the next step, Staske said, will require “a lot of hard work and focus.”
Chatham Glenwood (25-1) held an 8-3 edge in hits over the Chargers (17-20). Six Centennial errors — four coming in one inning — proved costly.
“If you give extra outs to a team that good, they will make you pay,” Centennial coach George Hendricks said.
The Glenwood program is the benchmark of what Centennial is trying to achieve.
“In order for us to get there, we need (more) pitchers like Dani and consistent field play,” Hendricks said. “We hit well this year (.298 cumulative average through 37 games). If we keep that up, we’ll be fine.”
The biggest difference in the sectional entries was evident in the dugout. Centennial had two players in reserve. One was a freshman with her wrist in a cast who was only available to pinch run.
The Titans had 10 extra players.
“Our kids play hard, but eventually we have to have more athletes to put on the field,” Hendricks said.
“Look in their dugout and you see a whole line of them waiting.”
Though the Chargers were overmatched on the scoreboard, they didn’t back down from the challenge.
Staske (12-12) struck out the first two batters she faced and finished with seven strikeouts and two walks. She also hit four batters, had two illegal pitches called and committed two balks.
“She’ll be a very good pitcher,” Hendricks said. “There were good hitters on the other side. Sometimes, you’re a little bit off.”
Centennial’s six base runners came from the first four players in the batting order. Leadoff hitter Hall drew two walks. Katie Janson — who graduated on Tuesday — had a double and a walk. Amy Janson — one of two freshmen starters — and Kristen Leuck — another recent graduate — each had a single.
The last Centennial softball team with more than 17 wins in a season was in 2002. This season was the fourth in the last five years that the school won more softball games than the previous spring.
“We’re getting closer all the time,” Hendricks said. “Every year, we’re putting more athletes on the field and doing things we couldn’t do the year before.
“If you can rule games on defense, you can rule a lot of games. We’d like to get to (Glenwood’s) level.”
Entering Wednesday’s game — which put the Titans into the Sweet 16 — the Chargers had won eight of their last nine games.
“We got better as the season went on,” Hendricks said.
It wasn’t a bad starting point as the Chargers look to 2014.
“Overall, we had a good season,” Hall said. “We worked well as a team.”
Chatham Glenwood will play Mattoon (29-4) in Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game at McGaughey Elementary School.