Kennady Ruhl of North Union watches a pitch while at the plate. Ruhl was the Lady Cats’ only offensive weapon as she hit a home run in the fourth inning during NU’s 4-1 loss to West Jefferson in the Division III District semifinals.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The Lady Cats of North Union are in a self-titled rebuilding year, but at a school like NU a rebuilding year means going 20-5.
It doesn’t come without some hiccups along the way. That hiccup came during the Lady Cats’ district semifinal game against West Jefferson Tuesday.
The Lady Cats, who defeated the Lady Rough Riders in the regular season 2-0, couldn’t do it twice as they ended their season with a 4-1 loss.
Head coach Dawn Draper said she was happy with the record with such a young team on the field this season.
“Everybody has a rebuilding year, but going 20-5, I am happy about,” she said. “We are not that team (2018 state tournament), but fortunately our kids believed that they where that team we had last year.
“It is because we are North Union and we have to keep that mentality and that tradition going.”
Senior Josie Duncan took the circle for the Lady Cats and rang up 11 strikeouts, while giving up six hits.
It was, however, errors at critical times that hurt NU.
The Lady Rough Riders got their lead-off hitter on base with a double and worked her around with some infield groundball outs.
However, a passed ball gave No. 7 West Jefferson the opening run of the game.
Draper said the loss comes down to only a few key moments.
“We lost because we didn’t hit and we lost because we had two errors with people in scoring position,” Draper said. “You take away a passed ball, one error and give me back one hit and we are in the game.
“But that is not the way it goes in softball.”
Duncan found a groove after the opening inning, notching five consecutive strikeouts.
With two outs, West Jeff scratched a run across on an NU error to take a 2-0 lead in the third inning.
The Lady Cats continued to struggle at the plate, but got their first runner on base when Kayla Sedgwick found a gap in the outfield for a double.
Jacklyn Fishbaugh put down a sacrifice bunt to advance Sedgwick.
Duncan walked and worked her way to second on a stea.
The rally, died, though, when the Lady Rough Riders’ pitcher worked out of the inning with a K.
Draper said her young crew has been inconsistent, as the season has been winding down.
“We have been really up and down,” she said. “We were really out of sorts today. We just weren’t the team that we can be.”
The Lady Cats did have one bright spot in their lineup.
Kennady Ruhl gave NU its only run with one swing of the bat when she blasted a shot to deep left field that cleared the fence in the fourth.
Even with the solo-shot, the Lady Cats managed only four hits.
West Jefferson (18-6) answered in the sixth with a couple of runs on three hits and an error to take a 4-1 lead.
The Cats had no answer in the box as their season came to a close.
Draper said the Rough Riders just had more timely hitting.
“We put together a couple hits, but they put the ball in play more than we did,” she said.
Draper added that she was really proud of her young team and found some good players who will really help out the squad next season.
“My young ones are not freshmen anymore and are going to have to step up and fulfill two big spots, especially on the mound,” Draper said. “So we are going to have to figure out what we are doing next year, but I think these kids are ready for the challenge.”
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