Last year, the Pusch Ridge Lions were so close to a state championship they could taste it. This year, they weren’t about to lose again in the state championship softball game. The Lady Lions took down the Division IV title after defeating sixth-seed St. Johns 3-2 at the Rose Mofford Complex on May 12.
The Lions (19-1) faced their only loss to Desert Christian in their last regular-season game, but answered in bold fashion by outscoring their four state opponents 36-11. For the Lions,’ dominating opponents was a theme all year.
“To try and say this in a humble manner, there were times throughout the year we didn’t have a lot of competition,” said coach Bob Vance. “Sometimes the games were pretty lopsided and it led to complacency, which we tried to avoid.”
Based on numbers alone, it appears the vast majority of the time, the Lions in fact avoided complacency. They shut out seven different opponents during the season and in each of those shut outs, the team outscored its opponents by double digits, while never allowing any opponent to score double-digit runs.
Vance said the team’s success was a combination of talent and leadership from the five seniors, Paige Sheppard, twin sisters Corrie and Rachel Ward, Sarah Majors, and Rachel Ellis.
“They have been great leaders in the way they coached the younger girls,” he said. “They have been working for this for three years, and last year against Benson, we just got beat. This year, we wanted to get back and do it right.”
And they did.
The winning RBI by Kristi Overman was complemented with the spot-on pitching of Corrie Ward, who struck out 11 batters. On the offensive end, Ward hit a two-run double in the bottom of the third inning to give the Lions a one-run advantage leading to the fourth.
“The plan was just to score,” said Corrie. “I think that score kind of set the other team off, because they were up, and then all of a sudden we were.”
Still, St. Johns answered right back with a single in the fifth to tie the game and eventually send the game to an eighth inning, where Overman’s walk-off single sent in McKayla Rossi for the winning run.
“We went crazy,” said Vance. “It feels great. It was a lot of fun and something new to us.”
Vance was so overjoyed with excitement that he didn’t even mind when he cut his face on Rossi’s helmet while hugging her after the game-winning run.
Corrie said the win has been long awaited.
“It’s about time,” said Corrie. “It’s a good way to leave.”
Along with the five graduating seniors, coach Vance will be pursuing other opportunities next year. Still, the Lions hope to continue carry its overwhelming success into the 2013 season.