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Softball reflects on season after playoff exit

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Varsity team stands at attention for the singing of the national anthem.

Varsity team stands at attention for the singing of the national anthem.

Grace Nguyen

Grace Nguyen

Varsity team stands at attention for the singing of the national anthem.

Nick Smith, Sports Editor

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Following a 7-2 loss to The Colony Cougars (25-6) last Friday, the softball team ended their season in the area round of playoffs, finishing with a 27-6 record on the season. Head coach Jeff Roberts said the team went into the game focused on a few key objectives, but came up short against the Cougars.

“Realistically we did a pretty good job of keeping the leadoff in check and got four outs in situational baserunning, which was exactly what we wanted to do,” Roberts said. “Unfortunately we didn’t stop their third basemen from getting her homer and we didn’t get our five runs we set out on.”

Last Friday’s game was a single elimination game opposed to the series the Leopards had played against their first playoff opponent, though Roberts said he prefered the one-game format based on his scouting on the Cougars.

“I knew we had to play a perfect game going into it,” Roberts said. “Basically every team in their district had contacted me with information about them and I had all the scouting reports I needed to know that one game was the best situation for us. I knew we had to beat them by one or two runs in a close ball game and we had to accomplish what we set out on beforehand.”

Looking back on the season, Roberts said he is proud of what the team accomplished: only losing in close games to opponents who are still in playoffs or just recently exited, making playoffs for the ninth straight year, and being consistently ranked in the top 10 in the state for Class 5A. Overall though, Roberts said his biggest goal was to follow their team motto of “One,” something which the team stayed true to throughout the year.

“We went through a bit of a rollercoaster again this year with some injuries and illness, but the biggest thing for us is that we stayed as a team,” Roberts said. “It was never about one individual or one team we were playing against, it was about us. And the biggest plus from this year is that the players will come away from this season with more than just wins and losses.”

As his senior class played their last game under him, Roberts said he could go through each of his seniors and talk about the strong relationships he’s formed not only with them. The softball team will graduate seven seniors this year: Alex Bellows, Mallory Lusby, JoJo McRae, Kallie Killingsworth, Kylee Ramos, Emily Weichel, and Taylor Dunagan.

“A lot of coaches say you have one of these groups in your entire coaching career and this is probably that one for me,” Roberts said. “Abells, Mal, Jo, Kallie, Kylee, Eweich, TD–every single one of them brought something to our program and every single one of them will be missed. It will be very difficult for me to keep a dry eye at the banquet because they are all not just great athletes, but great people and that’s what’s most important.”

For the seniors, Weichel said the softball program has provided the players something more than just an opportunity to play the sport they all love.

“It’s been the best part about high school,” Weichel said. “Lovejoy softball really is a family and it offers way more than just softball but also friendships and memories.”

As for McRae, the centerfielder will continue her competitive softball career at the University of Maryland, playing NCAA Division 1 softball in the Big 10 Conference.

“Being a part of the Lovejoy softball program has been a huge blessing,” McRae said. “It established friendships on and off the field, and gave me the most amazing group of girls to spend eighth period with everyday. The coaching staff was absolutely amazing, and I’m thankful to have played for coaches who care about each and everyone of us beyond softball and in our everyday lives. There isn’t a better family I could’ve asked to have been a part of these past four years.”

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Softball reflects on season after playoff exit