YORK — After a disappointing 15-0 loss to Region 3-AAAA champion Clover to end the Lady Cougars’ season, head softball coach Susan Lee Ballard offered explanations for York’s performance and praise for the team’s dedication.
“We began the season with key losses to graduation,” said Ballard.
“Injuries to key players slowed our progress.”
Pitcher Marissa Jackson suffered a season-ending injury when the season was barely underway, and power-hitting Nora Childers, a rock behind the plate, sat out the season’s stretch with lower back problems.
Taylor Wilkerson was moved up from the junior varsity to become the starting pitcher when Jackson sat down.
“Through all of this, the players we put on the field kept their heads up and gave it their best,” said Ballard. “We had good team chemistry, players supportive of each other. The attitude was good.
“There were no players with their heads down. I am proud of the kids.”
Playing at home on Senior Night, the York girls had a couple scoring opportunities against a Clover team that sailed through the region undefeated.
Cayla Campbell singled in the second inning after a walk to Taylor Clabough, and the Lady Cougars had two runners on base with Brianna Beverly, who had three hits in the previous game, at the plate.
But Campbell was thrown out stealing second, ending the scoring threat.
In the fifth, Mattie Ballard walked and Campbell, a freshman standout, singled. After Ballard and Campbell completed a double steal, Hanna Wilkerson walked, loading the bases with no outs. But the Clover pitcher retired the next three batters to end the rally and the game.
“We want to thank our seniors, Hanna Wilkerson, Jessica Bolin and Ashley Campbell, who were honored before the game,” said Ballard. “We appreciate all they’ve done.
“Hanna pitched well in relief tonight. She does a good job changing speeds.”
Wilkerson, who became the backup pitcher for her sister, Taylor, has played school softball since eighth grade. “My best pitch is a screwball,” she said. “I use different speeds.”
While her last game as a senior was emotional, Hanna Wilkerson said, she tried not to think about it during the game. Her advice to the returning players: “Keep working hard at practice and play together.”
Bolin, a solid player for the Lady Cougars in left-field and a third-year varsity participant, said, “The returning players need to keep their heads up and continue their commitment to the team.”
Ballard said there still are goals to be met. “We want to be competitive and to win games,” she said. “Under the circumstances, the kids responded to the challenge of a tough season.”
She said returning players will be active in the offseason. “We have a good many varsity players returning and good players in the JV and middle-school programs,” said Ballard.