Patriots softball team falls to Minster 5-3 in regional finals

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It was a magical season for TV's softball team but fell short of reaching the state final four. (Dale Barger photo)

CLAYTON – The Tri-Village softball team came up short in their quest to reach the state finals falling 5-3 to the heavy favorite 29-1 Minster Wildcats who were ranked 2nd in the final Ohio DIV state ranking.  It would be just the 2nd loss of the year for the Patriots who finished 24-2.

After striking first in their last two playoff games Tri-Village would have to play from behind as the Wildcats scored runs in the 2nd and 3rd inning including a solo home run by Addison Innskeep that was nearly erased by right fielder Mylee Bierly who had to contend running into the fence and reaching up with the ball just going by her glove.

Mylee Bierly had to contend with the fence and nearly made a spectacular catch to take away a home run. (Dale Barger photo)

Tri-Village answered at the top of the 3rd  on a towering drive by Camryn Osborne to right center and there would be no glove touching it as it banged off the top half of the scoreboard to get the Patriots on the board so to speak trailing 2-1.

In the bottom of the 5th inning Aereonna Baker singled to center and Macy Howell was called on to sacrifice and laid down a good bunt moving Baker to 2nd.  The Cats threw Howell out at first while Baker rounded second base a bit too aggressive and found herself in a hotbox between 2nd and 3rd.

Aereonna Baker got herself into a pickle and somehow survived and breathes a sigh of relief resting on 3rd base. (Dale Barger photo)

Miraculously, after going back and forth a few times Baker made the decision to dive into 3rd and a slight bobble by Minster allowed her to get her hand on the base as she lay flat on the grand knowing she survived “The Great Pickle”.

Tai Mize would then bring Baker home on a hard-hit ball up the middle.  Emma Greer then drew a walk giving TV runners at 1st and 2nd.

Camryn Osborne brought Mize home on a line drive double to center giving the PATS a 3-2 lead and runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs … but Minster escaped without allowing another run.

Tai Mize had 2 hits an RBI and Run scored and stole 2nd base here to try and put TV in scoring position in the final inning. (Dale Barger photo)

It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to answer hitting two rockets down the 3rd base line and a double to go up 4-3 with no outs prompting a pitching change for Elizabeth Poling who again threw a good game bringing on Emma Greer in relief.

Greer struck out the first hitter, followed by a single from Emily Bergman.

Bergman got a little aggressive on her secondary lead off the base and Tri-Village catcher Hailey Burk picked her off for the 2nd out.  Greer then got her 2nd strikeout to end the inning down 4-3.

The Patriots tried to get something going in the 6th inning but left Aereonna Baker on who was hit by a pitch in the inning.

Minster added an insurance run at the top of the 7th inning and the Patriots came to bat needing something big to happen to erase the 5-3 deficit.

Tai Mize led off with a walk with the heart of the Patriots line-up coming to the plate.

But starting pitcher Brooklyn Osterloh was able to get a long fly ball to center for an out and back-to-back strikeouts going the distance in the game getting the “W” and sending Minster to the State Final Four.

Before the season started Tri-Village wasn’t on anyone’s radar surprising many which makes it a magical season and given the youth on this team it has elevated Patriots softball to another level.

Leading the way for Tri-Village were two seniors Macy Howell and Kiersten Wilcox that drew praise from coach Emily Osborne.

Sr. Macy Howell has been solid all year levels the bat on the ball. (Dale Barger Photo)

“Macy played left field for us, she’s quick, fast and improved so much over the last four years.  She didn’t play a lot in the summer but worked hard when she was with us and had great work ethic in season and was very devoted to the team and we just appreciate her so much,” Osborne stated.

“Kiersten played 1st base, has great character and our leader by example.  The way she carries herself; the calmness, the encouragement to her teammates those are all great things. As a leader, she gives the best pep talks, the team wanted her to give some more today, that was one of our goals, actually. She just has that true heart behind it and loves the game of softball and plays so strong,”  Osborne relayed.

Sr. Kiersten Wilcox moved to 1st base this year and played it like she has been doing it her whole life. (Dale Barger photo)

It was an emotional time for this writer who lives out in the country with Wilcox diagonally across the road from me.  I have watched Kdub from my porch over the last 14 years playing ball at all hours of the day and night … through the week, on weekends and can attest to the amount of time she has spent playing the game she loves.

“I told myself at the beginning of the year if we could just get to the district, then every game beyond that would just be a bonus game,” Kiersten said after the game.

But being a competitor, you always want more as Kdub fought back tears and summarized the whole experience with one statement.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for this team and this whole experience,” she sobbed.

Kiersten who graduated as a Valedictorian last week capped off her softball career in the elite 8 and was recognized as 1st team All-WOAC, 1st team All-Southwest District and 2nd team All-State.

Though the Patriots will lose two seniors, they will return one junior, 6 sophomore and 6 freshmen all having received valuable experience something assistant coach Shane Mead and head coach Emily Osborne talked about.

“We’re young, but we’re going be right back here again next year, Mead said.

Mead acknowledged and thanked the seniors for their leadership but also expressed to returning players to remember this feeling.

“You guys were so good this year and only had to experience this feeling twice, so it’s up to you guys … but we want to be right back on this field again next year,” Mead added.

Coach Osborne believes this experience will help the team grow and certain experiences will help foster that growth that included her daughter sophomore shortstop Camryn Osborne.

Osborne was on top of the world after hitting an absolute bomb for a homerun and then followed up with a rbi double to gain the lead in the game.  She also had 9 puts out at shortstop and was having a magnificent game.

With two outs in the bottom of the 7th inning she came to plate representing the tying run with Tai Mize at 2nd with the drama and tension in the stadium at an all-time high.

The support by the Tri-Village fans and community was tremendous and appreciated by the coaches and team. (Dale Barger photo)

The Patriot faithful were on their feet just on the other side of the outfield fence displaying a sea of cardboard heads of their favorite players  and coaches peering back as they held their breath looking for one more mighty swing, but it wouldn’t be a fairy tale ending as the game ended on a strikeout.

“It’s a great feeling when you can put your team on the board but then be humbled on a strikeout and not feel so good,” Osborne said.  “Every time you’re up at the plate, they’re trying to strike you out, and you’re trying to hit the ball well and she did both today.

Camryn Osborn drives a deep shot off the scoreboard and represents some of the young talent returning next year. (Dale Barger photo)

I believe the handshakes and encouragement of her teammates she will go back to putting in the work this summer ready to come back and lead this team,” Osborne commented.

Osborne was 2nd team All-WOAC this year and had some big stats this year.  She was one hit away from breaking the individual record for hits in a season.  Osborne collected 44 hits, 4 homeruns, 10 doubles and batted .500 this year.

“Sometimes you have to go through some tough losses so that you work harder to get those big wins. I think for Camryn and this team, this is one of those losses to motivate them,” Osborne said

Osborne represents a number of younger talented players coming back including freshman Emma Greer who was 1st team All-WOAC, 1st team All-Southwest District and 2nd team All-State.

Emma Greer was fightng through some pain to her finger and wrist that was wrapped to play in the game vs Minster. (Dale Barger photo)

“She came in with a little bit of an injury battling a different battle today. But she was able to work well at third base and on the mound despite a finger, wrist injury, she was still working in there.  We’re proud of her and looking forward to the future that she has ahead of us.

Greer was two hits short of the record for hits in a season.  She ended the season with 43 hits, 20 doubles, 3 triples and 2 homeruns and batted .495 this year.

They both represent and will lead a group of talented players returning that includes Hailey Burk, Tai Mize, Mylee Bierly, Aereonna Baker, Adalyn Wright, Katy Brandon, Kenna Wilcox, Mckenzie Besecker, Emma Cantrell, Reagyn Hager and pitching ace Elizabeth Poling.

Coach Osborne and Mead gave each of the players clear cylinder tubes and instructed them to reflect on their experience and to go out and collect some dirt from the field.

Mead’s message, “We’re coming back here next year and throwing that dirt back on the field and taking it to state,”

For the younger Patriots they’ll have that chance but for Macy Howell and Kiersten Wilcox they’ll have the tube to remember the moment as they come to grips that it’s all over.

Senior Kiersten Wilcox is comforted by her dad Kirby Wilcox as she realizes her career has ended.  (Dale Barger photo)

Each of the girls embraced the moment some filling the tube and moving on. Hailey Burk squatting in her catcher position was more reflective and tears streaming and was consoled by teammate Emma Cantrell who exhibited senior leadership qualities and will be the only senior on the team next season.

Jr Emma Cantrell will return next season as the only senior displays senior leadership qualities by consoling her teammate Hailey Burk after the game. (Dale Barger photo)

Emma Greer and Aereonna Baker chose to gather from third base both seeing action in the game at that spot.

Coaches also took time to gather as well … sometimes you see the kids’ emotions and forget about the coaches and the time they put into it and how it hits them as well.

“It’s going to be something that we stick up on our shelf and make sure that we’re working to reach our goals for next year. It’s kind of sentimental, kind of emotional, but we need that,” Osborne said.

The Patriots finish their season at 24-2 overall was Regional Runner-up, District Champs, Sectional Champs and undefeated WOAC League Champs at 11-0.

It was a season all about setting goals and breaking records … it’s time to set some new goals and new records.

Tri-Village Athletic Director Brad Gray presents the OHSAA DIV Regional Runner-up Trophy to seniors Macy Howell and Kiersten Wilcox. It would be the first time since 1980 the girls have reached a Regional Final. (Dale Barger Photo)