“Next year, I think we’re going to dominate again. We plan on going further.”
By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Emma Gipson went four postseason games without allowing an earned run, but the Gillespie High School softball team was still stopped short in terms of capturing the elusive sectional championship that Michelle Smith had been coveting throughout her 16-year coaching tenure.
The Miners, which haven’t reached the Elite Eight since their second place state finish in 1995, were expecting a pitcher’s dual against Freeburg in the championship of the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Gillespie sectional May 27. That prediction came true, but the odds still weren’t in their favor despite a much-improved performance from last year’s appearance.
One unfortunate miscue proved to be the difference.
After Gipson had surrendered a single to begin the third inning, the Midgets capatalized on a rare opportunity that was created on a routine flyball which had been misplayed in left field. A sacrifice groundball put Freeburg in the lead and its Kansas University commit Lizzy Ludwig took care of the rest, blanking the Miners on two hits without a walk and ultimately outdueling Gipson in a friendly battle between two St. Louis Chaos select softball clubmates.
Gillespie concluded the season with a 29-4 record following the 1-0 loss, while Freeburg extended a massive winning streak to 30 games on its way to the Johnston City super sectional.
“I told the girls to take this experience and learn from it,” Smith said. “When you get to this point, you’ve got to catch some breaks and we just didn’t get them today. A bloop here or there and you hate to lose it on one of those. That’s what happens at this level typically. We caught a couple breaks early and we were putting the bat on the ball. We just didn’t get them when we needed to. I’m so proud of everyone. They fought to the end.”
The Miners are remaining optimistic for the future, for they only have one void to fill in the offseason. With Chloe Segarra departing, a shortstop and No. 3 hitter will be the need.
“We’re sorry to lose her,” Smith said of Segarra, who singled with one out in the fourth for one of Gillespie’s two hits. “But, we will be ready to roll again next year.”
Gipson, who previously led the Miners to a 2-0 sectional semifinal win over Breese Mater Dei with a two-run fifth inning single to back her third consecutive postseason shutout May 24, was equally confident.
“Next year, I think we’re going to dominate again,” said Gipson, an incoming junior. “We plan on going further.”