LIZTON -- One inning. That was ultimately what caused the 2008 softball season to come to an end for the Cloverdale Clovers -- one inning. Cloverdale lost to Speedway 9-5 in the second game of the Tri-West Softball Sectional Tuesday night.
If the first inning was any indication of how the evening was going to go for Cloverdale, the Clovers had to feel good. They sat down the first three Sparkplug batters on infield grounders. The second inning, however, was a different story.
"Our whole thing this year has been one inning," Cloverdale head coach Stacy Falls said. "I think that will be the thing we look to next year. Play at our level for seven innings, not five. In the games we've lost, it's been one bad inning. I'd rather have one bad inning to fix than seven bad innings to fix. That's what we're going to be looking to next season.
"We'll continue to work on our fundamentals and improve those as we go," she commented.
The Clovers responded in the third inning with two runs of their own. A Martika Byrd single to right-center field brought in Kayla Shepherd and Whitney Bond. Cloverdale held Speedway scoreless during the next three innings of play.
Cloverdale began to heat up again in the bottom of the fifth as Shepherd led off the inning with a mammoth triple to the gap in left-center field. Next came the play that brought the Cloverdale fans to their feet in protest and their coach storming onto the field.
Byrd smashed a shot to second, who fired it home to catch Shepherd. One problem. Shepherd slid into and crossed home plate as Speedway's Lauren Miller fumbled for the ball on the ground beside her leg. The umpire was shielded from the play and instinctively called Shepherd out. Falls pleaded her case to the umpire, but her argument fell on deaf ears.
After Speedway added two more runs in the top of the sixth, Cloverdale had one last shot to show the Sparkplugs what they were made of.
The Clovers began a mini-rally in the bottom of the seventh when Shepherd connected on a single and Byrd reached on an error. Kristen McCammon knocked in Shepherd when she blasted a shot to centerfield. Breegan Anderson reached on a walk to load the bases.
Jennifer Wiley hit a single to right field to bring home pinch runner Elizabeth Wiley and McCammon to pull the Clovers within four runs at 9-5. However, Speedway was too strong for the Clovers and closed the game out to move on in the sectional.
The game marked the final time seniors Chelsie Haltom, Kate Chambers, Jennifer Wiley, Kristen Schroer and Nicole Mowery would don a Cloverdale uniform, but Falls believes they were part of something big for Cloverdale softball. When asked about their contribution to the game, Falls pointed out their impact was felt outside the diamond as well as inside.
"They set a good example for the rest of the kids," Falls said. "I told them at the beginning of the year, this was the beginning of a new era. Every kid on this team was the start of a good era in Cloverdale softball. It was a good feeling, especially for the seniors, to look up and see little girls outside the fence, hanging on the fence, watching them play.
"I think they can always take pride and look back 10 years from now and say 'I started that'. I hope that's what they take away from it," Falls concluded.
Tri-West Softball Sectional
Speedway 070 002 0 -- 9 11 2
Cloverdale 002 000 3 -- 5 8 6
WP -- Tharp
LP -- Mowery
3B -- Shepherd (CHS), Rush (S)
2B -- McCammon (CHS), Tharp, Cooper (S)