The setting for the Vandalia softball team’s postseason opener was much like the final three weeks of the regular season.
Unexpected… and unpleasantly so.
The Lady Vandals were originally slated to host Shelbyville and celebrate Senior Day Monday afternoon.
Instead, wet field conditions – similar to those that wiped out VCHS’ final two home games, pushing Senior Day back in the process – greeted the Lady Vandals again, forcing their Effingham-St. Anthony Regional quarterfinal game to be played at Shelbyville.
And it was at that unexpected location where the Lady Vandals endured another surprising development – an 8-1 season-ending loss.
‘I went into this game expecting to be playing T-Town tomorrow,’ VCHS coach Jennifer Ades said. ‘I didn’t even have the idea we’d be losing today in my head.’
But a five-run Lady Rams third inning pretty much spelled doom for a Vandalia team that struggled scoring runs during a rough home stretch to the 2008 slate.
The Lady Vandals managed just three hits off Shelbyville freshman hurler Turaisa Welton, falling for the 10th time in their final 13 games.
‘It was typical for our season,’ Ades said. ‘We can make contact. It’s just getting the ball past the players we’ve had a problem with. The girls have the confidence to hit the ball, it’s just not in the right spots.’
Shelbyville (11-15) surpassed VCHS’ hit total in the third inning alone, as a two-run triple by Jennifer Hood highlighted a four-hit frame against senior starter Emily Shields.
‘Definitely not what we were hoping for,’ Ades said. ‘But I’ve got to give credit to the other team. They had a great at-bat, and they earned their runs.’
Shields settled down after the rough frame. But after Laura Hobbie singled in the third and later scored on a Dana McCarty double, the Lady Vandals managed just one more hit – an infield single by Mary Davis – against Welton. Welton struck out just four, but allowed no walks.
The setback brought a sudden end to the careers of VCHS seniors Hannah Donaldson, Halli Berst, Shields, Julianna Banal, McCarty and Hannah Edgar.
‘These seniors have been here as long as I have,’ Ades said. ‘I have a very special connection with all those girls, because I’ve seen them develop into excellent ballplayers.
‘I think these girls really took that opportunity and made themselves into great players. I’m very proud of my girls. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like without them.’
That said, the way the 2008 season ended was undeniably disappointing for the Lady Vandals, who seemed poised for bigger and better things in mid- April. after a five-game winning streak moved their record to 6-2.
But a tough loss to Mulberry Grove started a five-game losing streak, and VCHS struggled for much of the final three weeks – particularly in SCC-East play, where they finished 2-7.
‘In our conference, I don’t think there was one team that stood out,’ Ades said. ‘We should have had closer scores, if nothing else, if not the wins. It just didn’t work out in our favor.’
Ades was most disappointed that the seniors did not get a proper sendoff on their home field, due to Mother Nature’s continued assault on dryness.
‘A lot of the girls were expecting to have our Senior Night,’ Ades said. ‘They were expecting to be giving out roses to their parents and be recognized. They didn’t get any of that this year, and I think that probably does weigh on their minds a little more than they wanted it to.’