For the second consecutive year, the Clermont Northeastern girls’ softball team lost in the regional finals, this time to Columbus Bishop Ready in an eight-inning pitcher’s duel, 2-1 at Wright State University.
With state only three outs away and four-time Southern Buckeye Conference Player of the Year Emily Anderson in the circle, the Clermont Northeastern Lady Rockets had to feel good about their situation.
After seven scoreless innings CNE had finally broken through. Allison Gilkerson hit a RBI single to center field to put the Lady Rockets on top, 1-0. Anderson and the Lady Rockets took the field needing to retire the side to realize their goal of reaching the state tournament.
Ready put their first two batters on base before the Lady Rockets recorded their first out of the frame. Then, as quickly as the Lady Rockets took the lead, they lost it by virtue of a Sammy Hawkins two-run, walk-off double to left field.
“It was extremely disappointing, obviously,” Bill Goldfuss, the Lady Rockets head coach, said. “It happened so fast. One minute you’re up a run and think you’re in great shape and the next minute it’s complete agony. The emotion changed so fast that it’s hard to describe. It was one of the worst feelings I’ve had in my life.”
For seven innings, the game could have gone either way. Both pitchers were mowing down hitters at an impressive pace. CNE’s Anderson ended up with nine strikeouts and Ready’s Julia Hall K’ed 14.
The pitcher’s duel kept the scoreboard bare as both teams would strand runners on base, but couldn’t muster the hit they needed to get a run across the plate.
The loss for CNE was especially difficult for their strong core of seven seniors that had led the Lady Rockets to their second consecutive regional final.
“For those seniors to work so hard to get to that point and come up short (was tough),” Goldfuss said. “These guys have been absolutely wonderful. They’re great kids who work hard and they made our program what it is. We’ve won 91 games in the last four years and lost 17. We won four league championships, four sectional championships, three district championships. They’ve brought a lot of recognition to their school, their community and our program. They’re going to leave an indelible mark on our program just by what they’ve done and accomplished.”
The Lady Rockets finished the season with a 22-6 mark on the season and a perfect 9-0 record in the SBC. The seven seniors — Anderson, Chelsae Osborn, Carly Aselage, McKena Miller, Aryn Fetters, Katy Joslin and Raelyn Reynolds — left the program in much better shape than they found it. Goldfuss said that despite losing the seven regulars who have built up the program, they’re legacy at the school has raised the bar for future teams.
“Our program is in great shape,” Goldfuss said. “Hopefully, any one who has played with these (seniors), they know what the tradition is and where the bar has been set. We have a handful of kids coming back that are good players that work hard, we just need to find a few more pieces.”
Topping that list of needed pieces is someone to replace their pitcher, Anderson. She tallied 1,259 strikeouts over her career, which places her at fourth all-time, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
“We’re not going to find another Emily for next year, that’s obvious, but if we can get somebody to give us a chance, I think we’ll be okay,” Goldfuss said.
Anderson wasn’t the only person leaving large shoes to fill, much of the Lady Rockets’ everyday eight will be moving on. It will be up to returners like Gilkerson, Abbi Pritchard, Alexis Burden, Nicole Hempleman, Rachel Ward and Lindsey Wright to pick up the slack.
The returning group knows the reputation that being a Lady Rocket now carries, it’s up to them to continue in that winning tradition.
Columbus Bishop Ready 2,
Clermont Northeastern 1
WP – Hall (14 strikeouts). LP – Anderson (22-5, 9 strikeouts). Leaders: CNE – Miller 1-3, 3B; Gilkerson 1-4, RBI; Reynolds 1-4; Aselage 1-3; CBR – Hawkins 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Hackney 1-3; Finchum 1-3; Gatley 1-3. Records: CNE 22-6, CBR 15-15.