LAGRANGE — The Keystone softball team will play on its home field again in the postseason. But the game Saturday at LaGrange Community Park held extra meaning because it was Senior Day — the last regular-season game for eight seniors that have won 109 of 120 games.
All eight reached base and seven registered at least one hit and a run batted in during a 10-0 victory over Wellington. The win secured coach Jim Piazza’s first undefeated regular season (24-0) at Keystone.
“It couldn’t happen to a better group of kids,” Piazza said. “It’s so special and I think people take it for granted, because I don’t think they realize the work they’ve put in and how consistent they have been. It just doesn’t happen. They put in a lot of work and it’s showing on the field because they’re shattering almost every record we have at our school.”
The Wildcats entered the season with plenty of motivation after losing the Division II state final to Poland Seminary.
“You have no idea,” senior pitcher Kenzie Conrad said. “He told us at the end of that game that, ‘You’re going to see the good out of that,’ and we still haven’t seen the good out of losing that game. We will not see the good until we win one and we’re not stopping until we do.”
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard early Saturday and never let up.
Senior shortstop Erin Pond started the game with a single and moved to third on an error. Conrad, a University of Akron recruit, drove in Pond in on a groundout, and Bee Shaw drove in a run with a double.
Senior Alisha Silva doubled to lead off the second inning and scored on Alyson Broschk’s two-run home run to right-center field.
“We dropped a couple balls in the infield that could’ve been outs,” said coach Tim Wulfhoop, whose Dukes fell to 13-9. “I told them in our talk that we truly don’t know what this game could’ve been because of what we gave them. Ten-nothing is not a bad score against these guys, but we gave them at least five.”
With the bats clicking, Conrad (17-0) quickly found her rhythm in the center of the diamond.
She was perfect through the first three innings and allowed just one hit in the game. She faced the minimum of 15 batters and struck out seven.
“We were mixing it up a lot today,” Conrad said. “I was throwing a lot of different pitches. I was just really moving it around a lot, working on my pitches, making sure I’m ready for when tournament time comes around.”
Keystone put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fourth inning.
With three runs already in, Piazza went to his bench and pinch-hit senior Danyel Whitacre for Carleigh Herrington.
Whitacre did not disappoint, as she jumped on a 2-1 pitch from Olivia Wulfhoop and sent it over the wall in center field. It was the first career home run for Whitacre, a two-year letterwinner and team scholar-athlete award recipient.
“It feels good (to hit one), especially against our rivals,” Whitacre said. “We love to play Wellington and it just feels good to finally get a blast over the fence. It was well worth it, perfect timing. On the bench, you have to focus, stay as focused as everyone else and watch the pitcher, so I’d been watching her the whole game. I missed a good first strike, so I knew I had to crush it.”
“Danyel’s been a great kid,” Piazza said. “For her to come through like that … I keep telling these kids, ‘I think we’re living in a movie.’ You can’t write a better script than that. Here’s a kid that comes in on Senior Day and jacks a home run to give us the 10-run lead and end the game. It’s a movie.
“I knew it was gone. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is gone.’ I kind of get choked up for her because she’s been such a great kid the whole year and such an inspiration of what a true team player is.”
Contact Matt Florjancic at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.