Class 3A softball: M-S runs into roadblock
BARTONVILLE — Success on the softball diamond isn’t what Mark Jones will remember most about his 13th Mahomet-Seymour team.
“This is the most enjoyable year I’ve had as a coach, and that’s based on the players we had,” Jones said. “This team was easy to coach. They were senior-led, and they knew what to do.”
The eight-member senior class became teammates long before they became varsity Bulldogs.
“We’ve been playing together since we were 10,” said M-S outfielder Lindsey Ogle, who had two of her team’s three hits Saturday.
The group’s time together ended following a 4-0 loss to 13th-ranked Peoria Notre Dame in the semifinals of the Class 3A Limestone Sectional.
“I’m not disappointed in the girls,” Jones said. “We battled till the last strike. I’ll remember how successful we were.”
The seniors leave an outstanding legacy. Five of them earned their first varsity letters as freshmen.
A year later, they helped M-S capture its first regional crown in softball. As juniors, they were instrumental in the school’s second 20-win season.
In their farewell year, they became the first M-S class with consecutive 20-win seasons and they hoisted the school’s second regional championship plaque.
“We’ve grown up, and we’ve grown close,” Ogle said.
M-S closed the year with a 22-8-2 record, one win from matching the school’s single-season record.
Bulldog senior Alie Tarrant and Notre Dame’s Mikkinzie Stokes pitched matching three-hitters.
Trailing 4-0 in the top of the sixth inning, M-S seniors Jessica Roberts and Ogle delivered back-to-back hits to start the inning.
“At that point, all you can do is try your best so at the end of the game you don’t regret something,” Ogle said.
Stokes not only got out of the jam but also retired the final six M-S batters to end the game.
For the Bulldogs, Saturday was their third consecutive day on a yellow school bus making the nearly 100-mile (one-way) trip.
Roberts said the previous bus rides “did test our heart,” but added, “every time, we were not sad we drove, we were sad we didn’t get to play.”
The commute, Ogle said, “increased our drive and fight. We wanted to play our hearts out.”
Tarrant (16-5) ended her prep career with a 13-strikeout, two-walk performance. She was the area leader with 217 strikeouts for the spring.
She also hit three batters, one of which led to the run for the Irish (27-8) that broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“I told the girls, ‘Don’t base the season on one game. Look at what we accomplished,’ ” Jones said. “We were second in the Corn Belt Conference and fifth in a 32-team tournament in Tennessee.”
Knowing that M-S and the Irish had split a regular season doubleheader made Saturday’s outcome “bittersweet,” according to Jones.
“That makes it a little harder,” he added, “but they did a good job, and we didn’t hit as well as I wanted.”
Six of the M-S seniors plan to play in college (five for softball and one for basketball), but Ogle said the tears were because “it’s sad we won’t be playing with each other next year.”
Ogle is headed to Aurora College. Tarrant is a Butler recruit. Allie Thornton will play for Danville Area Community College, which is reviving its program after a one-year hiatus. Erin Davis will play for Benedictine in Springfield, and Vanessa Heinold (who missed her senior year with an injury) is headed to Olney Central Community College.
Kristen Belyea will focus on basketball at Rose-Hulman. Roberts and Kourteney Hollowell are the Bulldogs’ other seniors.
Jones now has a new favorite team for the final week of the high school season.
“I pull for whoever beats us,” he said. “The further they go, the better it makes us look.”
Notre Dame will play Metamora in Monday’s 4:30 p.m. sectional finals.