The Mulberry Grove softball team did not come away with the sectional championship trophy it coveted Saturday. But the Lady Aces did exit the Class 1A Raymond-Lincolnwood Sectional with something else they’ve craved all season long.
Despite a deceptively lopsided 7-0 victory, the top-ranked Lebanon Greyhounds saw how the Lady Aces managed to pile up 26 wins despite losing their ace pitcher to an injury early in the season.
Mulberry Grove scratched and clawed for seven innings, playing spectacular defense at times, in addition to making solid contact throughout against all-state hurler Paige Washington, striking out just five times.
But in the end, a six-run Lebanon explosion in the third proved far too much to overcome.
Six different Greyhounds had hits and five different players had RBIs during the fateful frame – and not one of them came from Washington, prompting Lady Aces’ coach John Barnes to tip his cap to Lebanon.
‘I was going to make the rest of the team beat us, and they did,’ Barnes said. ‘They did their job.’
And despite modest strikeout totals, Washington did her job as well, holding the Lady Aces to just three hits. Mulberry Grove couldn’t capitalize on a pair of first-and-third, one-out situations in the first three innings, as Washington settled into a groove after her teammates gave her a big lead.
‘We had more hits against her this time than we did (earlier in the season), but we just didn’t string them together,’ Barnes said.
Still, Lebanon’s supporters came away impressed with Barnes’ team – particularly with the Lady Aces’ defensive prowess.
Coach John Barnes hopes others take notice as well.
‘The big thing I wish the girls could gain from this (postseason run) is credit at a state level,’ Barnes said. ‘These girls should be able to get recognized. We’ve got some girls that are as good as anybody, period.’
And, despite losing three key seniors – third baseman Lindsay Dothager, first baseman/pitcher Rachel Brewer and pitcher/DH Brittany Crandell – the Lady Aces should be able to build on a surprisingly successful season with six starters back next year.
‘I don’t think it’s unfair for me to say we overachieved this year, considering we had to make some (new) pitchers click,’ said Barnes, who lost Crandell to a rotator cuff tear early in the year. ‘To be 26-10 is a big deal. Making it to the sectional finals, it just builds us up for next year.’