By Wade Linville –
Another notable season of high school softball has come to a close for the Western Brown Lady Broncos.
After staking claim to the program’s fifth consecutive Southern Buckeye Athletic/Academic Conference American Division Title, the Lady Broncos went on to capture a Southwest District Division II Sectional Title and finished their spring campaign as district runner-ups with an overall record of 18-6.
“We had a good year,” said Western Brown head softball coach Blaine Wallace. “We went undefeated in the league and non-league wise we played some top notch competition. We obviously have some talent and we are going to build on that.”
The Lady Broncos fell to Greenville 8-0 in the Southwest District Division II championship game on Saturday, May 20 at Mason High School, a post-season tourney bout that stirred a bit of controversy early on.
The Greenville defense managed to hold the Lady Broncos run-less in the top of the first inning and went on to score six runs in the bottom of the frame to take an early 6-0 lead. Western Brown’s freshman pitcher Sydni Barnes was clearly rattled at the mound in the bottom of the first inning while Greenville’s third base coach became irate, demanding an “illegal pitch” be called on the Lady Bronco standout and intimidating the young, yet very skilled pitcher. Barnes appeared as if she was struggling to keep her emotions at bay in her attempt to make it through her first inning in the pitcher’s circle while nothing was being done by the officiating crew to quiet the Greenville coach.
After the Green Waves were able to rise to a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first, a member of the officiating crew finally honored the Greenville’s demand for an illegal pitch to be called, bringing home the sixth Greenville run to leave the Lady Broncos trailing by six.
“If I ever have to win by trying to intimidate the other team’s pitcher, then I shouldn’t be coaching,” said Wallace. “We got rattled in the first inning, and that was pretty much the ballgame.”
The Greenville head coach finally settled down in the second inning, and so did Barnes and the Western Brown defense.
Barnes struck out two while giving up just one run in the bottom of the second inning.
With two innings in the books, the Green Waves held a 7-0 lead.
The Lady Broncos gave up only one more run over the next five innings of play and while the Lady Bronco bats were connecting, hits were hard to come by for the Western Brown softball squad.
It was sophomore Hannah Bolender hammering a two-out double to left-center in the top of the third for the Lady Broncos’ first hit of the game, but she was left stranded as Barnes hit into an out to end the side.
The next Lady Bronco hit didn’t come until the top of the sixth inning, when Barnes swung for a single to left field but was stranded on the base path as junior teammate Tessa Pinkerton hit into a ground out.
Western Brown’s junior third baseman Mary Sizer ripped a single to left-center in the seventh inning in the Lady Broncos’ last chance to mount a comeback, but the Green Waves turned a 6-4-3 double play off a grounder by Western Brown’s sophomore first baseman Liz Hadley to clear the bases.
The game would end with a fly out off the bat of Western Brown sophomore Lexi Wallace.
The end of their 2017 campaign sparked a great deal of emotions for Blaine Wallace and his crew of Lady Broncos, as they shared their final moments on high school softball on the field at Mason High School with the team’s only senior – shortstop Bailie Darnall.
Darnall reached the end of what has been an outstanding career as a student/athlete at Western Brown High School, a player who will certainly be missed on the softball field next season.
On a positive note, the future looks very bright for the Western Brown High School softball program as they return all but one player and have a skilled crew of incoming freshmen for the 2018 spring season with expectations that the softball program will move up to compete on the OHSAA Division I level.