White Knoll softball coach April Farr had an uneasy feeling despite her team holding a four-run lead Friday in the deciding game of the Class 5A championship.
Farr’s fears proved to be founded as Byrnes chipped away at the Timberwolves lead before scoring four runs in the fifth on its way to a 7-4 victory to win the state title.
It was the Rebels’ fourth state championship.
“I knew that wasn’t enough,” Farr said. “I knew what kind of team Byrnes was and that they would fight back. So I wasn’t comfortable with a four-run lead. That’s just the way it falls sometimes. They came up with some key hits, and that’s how it rolls sometimes.”
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The loss ends a record-breaking season for the program. White Knoll won 28 games and was within a game of winning its first state title. The Wolves tried to become the first Midlands team to win a softball state title since Brookland-Cayce in 2002.
But with only three seniors and two juniors on the roster, Farr hopes this season is a turning point for the program.
“It’s hard to go down like this, but we will be back,” Farr said. “We are loaded with freshmen and sophomores. That’s what I told them – to look at the future they are building at White Knoll.”
“We are going to come back and work harder, and hopefully, that will be us next year,” sophomore outfielder Taylor Newton said as she watched the Rebels celebrate in the outfield.
The victory completes Byrnes’ unfinished business from a year ago. The Rebels dropped the final two games of the title series last year to Stratford.
This year, Byrnes (25-6) also won game one before losing 4-3 on Wednesday. Then, the Rebels fell behind 4-0 going to the bottom of the third before mounting a comeback.
Trailing 4-3 in the fifth, Byrnes scored four runs to take a 7-4 lead. Hayden Bradley delivered the game-winning hit with a two-run single to score Haven Pesce and Amber Campbell, who reached on back-to-back singles, and put the Rebels up 5-4.
Hayley Whitesides and Kassie Rimel each added RBIs in the inning.
“I’m not sure a day or week went by that we didn’t talk about losing in 2016,” Byrnes coach Brandi Aiken said. “It definitely was a driving force for us. We even talked about our seniors from last year – that we owed them. I’m just proud of these kids who waited almost a year and came through.”
Kasey Widmyer got stronger as the game went along to pick up the win on the mound. She didn’t allow a hit after the third inning and just one base runner, Hannah Goodwin, who reached on an error in the sixth.
Goodwin led the Timberwolves with a two-run double, which gave White Knoll a 3-0 lead in the third. Andrea Lyon had a single and RBI. Lyon took the loss on the mound.
W: Kasey Widmyer. L: Andrea Lyon. Hitters: WK: Goodwin 1-3 2 RBI; Lyon 1-2 RBI Leaphart 1-3 RBI; Johnson 1-3; Workman 1-3. B: Widmyer 2-4 RBI; Bradley 2-3 RBI; Rimel 1-1 RBI.