BNL’s big sticks speak loudly as No.4 Stars celebrate Senior Day with 7-3 win over Edgewood

BNL’s Annie Waggoner rifles a pitch toward the plate. Waggoner and the Stars celebrated Senior Day with a 7-3 win over Edgewood on Saturday.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Theodore Roosevelt, one of the presidents immortalized on Mount Rushmore, was famous for his foreign policy phrase “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Teddy was rough and ready. Bedford North Lawrence spoke quite loudly with its big sticks in the regular-season home finale.

The Stars, celebrating Senior Day, blasted four home runs to rough up Edgewood on Saturday. The Mustangs matched BNL’s hit total, but their soft-spoken singles got overshadowed by the hard-hit bombs that soared out of BNL’s launching pad.

With senior Annie Waggoner setting the tone with a first-inning homer, the No.4 Stars thumped their way to a 7-3 triumph, the perfect valediction for BNL’s four-player senior class. Waggoner, Braxton McCauley, Lauryn Anderson and Haley Davis were honored after the contest. Some of their underclass teammates did a lot of damage to make it a memorable farewell.

After Waggoner’s opening shot, the other long-distance connections came from Ava Ratliff (once again taking the state lead with her 19th of the season), Kendall Graves and Aliza Jewell. And the Stars needed those jolts after giving up three runs (and the lead) during a messy third inning.

Blame it on elevated emotions, because senior celebrations are always unpredictable. Blame it on fatigue, because BNL (21-7) is nearing the end of a long grind. One more week, and the postseason starts. Blame it on home-run-itis. When a team has hit 45 of them, they tend to swing a little harder, going for the gusto.

BNL’s Ava Ratliff trots toward the team reception at home plate after blasting her state-leading 19th home run.

These were more accidental tours. Hit it hard and see what happens. The ball just happened to travel 200-plus feet.

“It seems everyone tries to put more on it,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert said. “I’m seriously not a home-run guy. I like seeing them, but it’s like I told Kendall. Just hit a double, hit the gap. She went with the pitch and hit it out. That’s us. That’s BNL softball. Hit the ball hard, and if it carries out, it carries out.”

BNL struck early. Anderson reached on an error, and one out later Waggoner slammed her two-run rocket to left. What a way to start Senior Day.

“It’s a dream come true, honestly,” Waggoner said. “I’ve been kind of struggling at the plate, and it feels like I’ve been unlucky. So the home run was the cherry on top of the cake.”

The dream got a little hazy in the Edgewood third. Three straight one-out walks loaded the bases, and Anderson’s couldn’t corral Ella Sproul’s ground ball near second base as a run scored. With two outs, Ally Bland singled to left as two runs crossed, although BNL cut down Sproul at third base when Ratliff gathered the late throw home and snapped a laser to Haleigh Canada at the bag for the rally-ending out.

Trailing 3-2, the Stars answered quickly. Ratliff boomed a solo shot to ignite a third-inning comeback. Waggoner singled to center, McCauley grounded out as pinch runner Anna Williams advanced to second, and Jewell drove in the go-ahead run with a single to center. Three pitches later, Graves connected for a two-run homer and 6-3 lead.

BNL coach Brad Gilbert greets Kendall Graves following her two-run home run in the third inning.

BNL added a final run in the fifth on Jewell’s solo blast. Jewell and Waggoner had two hits each.

Waggoner, except for the third-inning scuffling, was back to her powerful self. She struck out five, and none of the runs were earned. Anderson made a dazzling play in the second, ranging far to her left to snag a ball almost behind first base to throw out a runner.

“We just pounded the outside corner, and Annie looked like herself again,” Gilbert said. “A good pitcher doesn’t have to strike out double digits every night. You can pitch to contact. She had a pretty good outing.”

Waggoner, an Indiana State recruit, improved to 13-5 this season and extended her school record for career wins. She really isn’t ready for her remarkable tenure in a BNL uniform to end.

“It’s hard to know we won’t be back next year, and there is some pressure sometimes. I have to overcome it,” she said. “It’s been an emotional year in general. It was really hard, knowing today was the last regular-season game. But we did our thing and tried to keep it as normal as possible.

“It’s been a tough year. I’m going to get my mojo back, get my mind right. I feel like I got my groove back. They had my back the whole time. That’s what got me through.“

Bland had two hits for the Mustangs (19-7).

After honoring the seniors during the postgame ceremony, the Stars will focus on the last week of the regular season.

“It’s always a very emotional time,” Gilbert said. “The good news is we got through it, and we won. That’s always good.”

BNL will visit Bloomington South on Monday.

BNL’s Lauryn Anderson shows her range while going behind first base to collect a ground ball.