By Noah Dalton
LINTON – Mitchell High School’s season came to an end on Tuesday, falling at the hands of North Knox I in a tight sectional semifinal matchup, 8-7.
The game wasn’t close all the way through, in fact the Bluejackets found themselves trailing much of the game, behind by five runs to start the bottom of the seventh inning.
Mitchell found themselves in an early hole after a disastrous first inning, where they gave up four runs to the Warriors.
Bluejackets’ head coach Stevie Canada said his team got off to a rough start, giving up runs to North Knox’s batters and digging a hole they had to spend the rest of the game attempting to climb out of.
“We started the game today flat and that first inning was a bad inning. We missed some spots with our pitching. They had some big hits, some clubs in the outfield. If you let a team like that get four runs on you and try to scratch the whole time to get that back, it’s just too much.”
Mitchell found their way onto the scoreboard for the first time in the third inning with a two-run homer from Avery Southern, her 11th of the year and second in two games of sectional play.
Again though, any progress made was erased by the Warriors in the following inning, when they scored another two runs of their own to once again extend their lead to four at 6-2.
The game continued in a “one step forward, two steps back” manner for the Bluejackets, scoring a third run in the bottom of the fifth when North Knox committed an error fielding a ground ball from Page Mullis, scoring Malaya Tanglao from third, only to give up two more runs in the top of the sixth.
The first run came when Mitchell fielded a bunt from Cora Armes with runner Ellie Allen at third, who the Bluejackets attempted to trap before missing a throw, allowing her to score and letting Armes reach first. That error proved even more costly, when Armes reached third before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Reagan Jones.
Entering the bottom of the sixth down 8-3, the Bluejackets had an opportunity to significantly close the gap in the inning, loading up the bases with two outs for Southern, who had batted in five runs in the two sectional games thus far and led the team over the course of the year in RBIs with 37.
With a 2-1 count, Southern swung, popping up a fly ball that was caught by the Warriors around second base to end the inning.
“With having the bases loaded in the sixth, I think Avery pressed a little too hard there, which she’s a big hitter and rightfully so, she tried to hit a ball and in that case when we’ve got bases loaded we probably just want to take our medicine,” Canada said.
Forcing three straight outs in the top of the seventh, Mitchell had one final opportunity to even up the game.
They began the inning with three straight hits from Tanglao, Page Mullis and Emerie Russell, scoring two runs. Gracelynn Payton reached base on an error in the next at bat, moving pinch-runner Paige Martin to third, where she would score from along with Payton in the following at-bat after a North Knox error, making it a one-run game.
Those would be the final two runs of the game, with the Warriors recording two straight outs to put Mitchell away.
The Bluejackets wound up ending the game with more hits than North Knox, leading nine to six in that category, but being unable to turn those batters reaching base into runs, ending multiple innings with runners on base. Canada noted that following the game, saying the night was another off night for his team in what has been an up and down season.
“We had a couple of girls out on the bags and we didn’t make the play. It’s just one of those days,” he said. “It wasn’t our day and that’s kind of how our season has been, just night and day. You don’t know what’s going to happen from day-to-day and that’s kind of where were at.”
Despite a disappointing final result, Canada said he feels his final season with much of the group due to seven players graduating was a success.
“Just all around. I would say a successful season from start to end. We hit some of our goals and some of our goals we did not hit but I think this is a great group of seniors and we sent them out playing hard and this team played hard. Played hard, just wasn’t our day,” Canada said.
The group of seniors; Rylee Brazzell, Gracelynn Payton, Avery Southern, Caitlyn Mullis, Emerie Russell, Malaya Tanglao and Maddie Gerkin, includes some key members of Mitchell’s lineup, as well as players that Canada has been coaching for much of their time with the sport.
“I’ve had this group since they were like fifth graders, fourth graders. Yeah, it’s tough. It’s tough to watch the senior group go. A lot of softball knowledge, a lot of a lot of tears, blood, sweat, weekends played,” said Canada. “I’m gonna miss this group. They definitely were a big part of my life. Yeah, we’re gonna definitely miss them.”
Through the sadness of seeing them exit the field for the final time together in a Bluejackets uniform, Canada said he felt proud of the season the team put together, as well as their consistent effort, after Tuesday’s game.
“I’m just so proud of the girls. The way they hung around and they took everything we asked them to do and they put forth the effort and I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls, I’d do anything for them. Great kids, great team.”