After concluding the third place game against Walnut Grove Friday night at Killian Complex in Springfield, New Franklin Lady Bulldogs softball coach Ross Dowell looked back to the season that was after finishing 22-9.
Although the Lady Bulldogs dropped both games in the state tournament, losing to Maysville 4-3 in nine innings in the semifinal round and Walnut Grove 13-3 for third place, Dowell said it was a great ride.
“We had a lot of fun this season,” Dowell said. “If you would have told me at the start of the season that we would finish fourth in the state, I would have taken it. I am sure the girls are disappointed but we fought the team to nine innings that won the state title. We stayed together and played together.”
In the semifinal round Friday afternoon against Maysville, the Lady Bulldogs had plenty of chances  to win the game in regulation while leading 3-2 after 2 1/2 after a three-RBI double to right-center field by junior Aislinn Himmelberg.
But prior to the three-run third, New Franklin didn’t quite look like the same team that had rallied from behind the week before against St. Elizabeth. after giving up two runs in the bottom-half of the first against Maysville on one hit, two walks and two wild pitches.
Nonetheless, after settling down somewhat in the second to hold Maysville scoreless, the Lady Bulldogs came back and took the lead for the first time in the top-half of the third when freshman Cassie Armentrout reached on a lead-off single to right and then advanced to second when Aly Hundley reached on an error by the third baseman. Sara Montgomery then followed it up with an infield single to load the bases before the base clearing three-RBI double to right-center by Himmelberg.
Both teams then had chances to open up the game, with the Lady Wolverines adding another run in the bottom-half of the third on back-to-back doubles by Rachel Boucher and Bailey Frasher and a single by Katherine Sweiger.
Then, after holding New Franklin scoreless in its half of the fourth, Maysville threatened again in the bottom-half of the inning after a lead-off single by Jennifer Haley and a error. However with runners on first and second with no outs, the Lady Bulldogs caught a break when Kristin Strong hit a hard grounder to short, which hit Haley. Maysville then ran itself into a double play when Lesli Cook flew out to left fielder Derian Dodson, who doubled off Mary Kapp at second to end the inning.
New Franklin also put two runners on in the fifth after Hundley hit a one-out single to center and Sara Montgomery was hit by a pitch. However, after getting Claire Monnig on a ground out to short, Maysville pitcher Katie Applegarth came back and got Himmelberg on a strikeout to end the inning.
The Lady Bulldogs also left runners on base in the sixth and seventh innings of play. Meanwhile, after a scoreless eighth inning, New Franklin failed to score again in its half of the ninth while Maysville led off the bottom-half of the inning with a double to left by Strong and a error on a bunt to put runners on first and second with no outs. Jade Hahn then slapped a single to left to score Strong for the winning run.
After the game, Dowell said he thought his team was tight.
“We gave up two early and then we fought back but then we turned around and gave that one back,” Dowell said. “Their pitcher did a pretty good job of moving in and changing speeds but we should have hit her a little better than I thought. Like I said everything was pretty tight on our end. We probably left 6-7 players on I am guessing. We just didn’t get the bat today that we had Saturday to get us moving along. Like I said, they are here for a reason. You are going to give up 6-7 hits probably but the walks and the pass balls were something we just couldn’t overcome.”
Applegarth picked up the win in the circle for Maysville while Kalani Pihana took the loss for New Franklin. Applegarth pitched all nine innings and gave up three runs on eight hits and no walks while striking out 12. Pihana, meanwhile, pitched  eight-plus innings and surrendered four runs on 10 hits and five walks while striking out two batters.
Kristin Strong went 2-for-5 in the game with a single and a double while Katherine Sweiger also finished the game with two hits.
For New Franklin, Aly Hundley and Sara Montgomery each had two singles while Aislinn Himmelberg finished the game with a three-RBI double and Kalani Pihana and Cassie Armentrout with one single each.
Walnut Grove 13
New Franklin 3
In the third-place game later that night against Walnut Grove, who lost earlier in the day against Westran 6-3 on a walk-off  home run, Dowell said his team fought to tie it in the fourth inning.
Nonetheless, the Lady Bulldogs had to play from behind again while surrendering two runs in the top-half of the second on three hits and a wild pitch.
But just like the first game against Maysville, the Lady Bulldogs rallied back to tie the game at 2-all in the bottom-half of the third with one out after Montgomery walked and Himmelberg tripled to score one run. Pihana then doubled to score Himmelberg to tie the game.
Unfortunately for New Franklin, they never got any closer to taking the lead in the ballgame as Walnut Grove came back with four in the fifth and seventh again in the seventh to win by 10.
The Lady Bulldogs, meanwhile, sent another run across in the bottom-half of the fifth on the RBI-single by Monnig.
Dowell said Walnut Grove was a good hitting team. “We also had a few errors and they took advantage of it,” Dowell said. “We just fell apart in the fifth and sixth. I think the emotion of the day just got to us.”
Karsyn Hejna picked up the win for Walnut Grove while Megan Phillips took the loss for New Franklin. In six innings, Karsyn gave up three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out eight batters. Phillips, meanwhile, pitched the first-four innings and allowed five runs, three earned, on seven hits and one walk while striking out one. Pihana then came in and pitched two innings in relief and issued eight runs, three earned, on six hits.
Walnut Grove also out-hit New Franklin 13-6, with Hejna and Audree Crain each collecting three hits and driving in two runs.
For New Franklin, Himmelberg went 2-for-3 with a single, triple and one RBI while Claire Monnig added two singles and one RBI. Pihana finished the game with a double and one RBI while Sara Montgomery added one single.
Note: Maysville went on to win the title in Class 1 by beating Westran 6-3.
In other championship games, Bishop LeBlond defeated South Callaway 8-6 in Class 2; Centralia won 9-2 over Blair Oaks for its third straight title in Class 3; and Lee’s Summit upended Webb City 7-1 for the title in Class 4.