By Garth Shanklin
In a rematch between two squads that met in 2015 with a state trip on the line, the Williamsburg Lady Wildcats’ softball team once again came up just short against North Union.
Williamsburg’s senior class faced off against the Lady Cats as freshman, falling 5-0. Three years later, the same two teams faced off with the same pitchers in the circle, and once again Williamsburg was unable to solve Madison Wetting.
Wetting tossed a complete game against the Lady Wildcats, allowing a total of four hits, though her defense prevented several more.
The lone run of the game scored in the first inning. North Union’s Josie Duncan drew a walk on several close pitches, then moved to second on a single by Abby Davis.
After a groundout moved both runners into scoring position, Duncan scored on a passed ball to give her team a 1-0 lead. Carly Wagers got a strikeout and a groundout back to the circle to end the inning.
Williamsburg had several chances to put runs on the board, but they couldn’t keep runners on the basepaths. Kara Bailey reached base in the second inning on a walk, but was erased after rounding second base too far on a bunt by Madi Ogden.
One inning later, Lexi Lindsey reached on a single, but she was caught stealing for the second out of the inning.
Wagers, the state’s leading home run hitter, crushed a ball to right field in her second at-bat, but it landed about 15 feet to the right of the foul pole. She struck out , and finished the game 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
In the fifth, Paige Fisher reached base after being hit with a pitch. She was hit again while sliding back into first base, and then later retired on a bunt that was popped up to first for a double-play.
Williamsburg had another chance in the top of the sixth. Peyton Fisher drilled a one-out double, but she was thrown out at third base trying to make it a triple. The next batter, Faith Golden, singled, but was left stranded at first.
In the top of the seventh, Ogden crushed a softball to deep center field, but it was caught by Davis, who crashed into the wall to record the second out. Paige Fisher’s popup to first base ended the game.
Williamsburg head coach Rick Healey said the catch was one of the best he’d seen as a coach.
“You relive moments and you start going from the most recent back,” Healey said. “That girls catch on Ogden was one of the best catches, and I’ve been coaching a long time. Originally I thought it was out, she hit it hard. That night air…”
Wetting also earned praise from Healey for her performance in the circle, along with the execution of her team as a whole.
“She’s a very, very good pitcher,” Healey said. “I thought she’d throw more change-ups, but she didn’t feel like she needed to. I’ve told 100 people, sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. Hats off to them, they executed.”
Williamsburg loses six seniors off of this year’s team: Wagers, Peyton Fisher, Leslie Engel, Kayla Ilg, Abby Spencer and Emma Jeffers. Wagers finishes her Williamsburg career as Ohio’s all-time single-season and career home run leader and the single-season RBI leader. Her 220 career RBI would also be the state record, though that mark has yet to be verified.
The accomplishments of as a group Williamsburg’s senior class are lengthy. The six seniors have appeared in the regional final each of their four seasons at Williamsburg, winning two regional titles and a state championship last season.
In addition, the seniors have won the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference National Division championship each of the last four years, posting a 109-10 (.916) winning percentage overall and a 41-1 mark (.976) in league play. Williamsburg’s last league loss came in a 2-1 decision to Felicity-Franklin on April 6, 2014.
Healey said he hopes the team is able to look at those accomplishments and feel a sense of pride, instead of dwelling on what could have been.
“You can’t be too disappointed,” Healey said. “If you take a group of kids and outline the success they’ll have in high school when they’re in eighth grade, that’s a dream. They’re disappointed, because they wanted to go back and win, but there are a lot of kids in the state of Ohio who would want to have that success.”
Healey noted the Williamsburg senior class has accomplished so much and means so much to the community. While the Lady Wildcats will fill their spots in the batting order and on the field, replacing the players themselves is all but impossible.
“I’ve talked to a bunch of people and parents, especially the underclass parents, want to know what we’ll look like next year, who are we putting in what spot,” Healey said. “When you try to replace Peyton Fisher, when you try to replace Wagers, that’s some tall shoes to fill. They mean so much to Williamsburg and the community, they basically put Williamsburg on the map. When you drive into Williamsburg, you see a sign that says ‘2017 State Champions’ and that sign will be there forever. It’s going to be hard.”
Last year’s senior class was also a decorated one, according to Healey, and he hopes he has the same things to say about the Class of 2019 in a year.
“Last year, someone asked me how I would replace Kacey Smith, Riley Clark and Makayla Kirschner,” Healey said. “I was thinking the same thing. They were the life blood. Next year, hopefully, we’re talking about another trip to regionals or another trip to state and we’ll look back at the kids who filled those shoes and be happy.”
Williamsburg has plenty of talent to draw on for the future, according to their head coach.
“If I look across the SBAAC, and go school by school, there will be some schools that have 2-3 kids that are playing select at a higher level,” Healey said. “I bet I have nine or 10. Those are the kids that are going to be the replacements.”