The 2015 FC Lady Tiger Softball Team didn’t necessarily need more timely hitting, more power, better umps, better luck, better gloves or stronger arms this fall — perhaps all it needed was more time.
Inevitably, the Tigers needed one more run, as a 5-4 loss to Malcolm in seven innings ended FC’s season. The Tigers trailed 4-0 until the top of the sixth, when a four-run rally tied the game. Senior Marissa Ogden hit a two-run single, and Bailey Armbruster and Morgan Bletscher each produced run-scoring hits for the Tigers. Armbruster, Meredith Poppe (2-for-4), Avery Scott and Bletscher all plated in the inning to even it up.
FC pitcher Tayten O’Brien threw a scoreless sixth, but the Tigers failed to muster any offense of its own in the top half of the final frame. Malcolm, a team that won 20 games, went on to humble 27-3 Class C1 No. 1 Conestoga 9-1 in Game 1 of Friday’s Championship series, brought the winning run around with one out in the seventh. Malcolm put a lasting scare in the Cougars, falling by just two, 6-4, in the finale and just missing a state wildcard berth.
By then, unfortunately, the sun had set on FC’s season. As they were just waking up.
A largely disappointing three-week September stretch amid lofty expectations turned around for FCHS the final two weeks, as the team won six of its last eight games to finish above .500 at 15-14. Furthermore, one of those losses — 10-5 in extra innings to Southern Thursday afternoon in the first round — the Tigers avenged a day later with a 5-2 victory in nine innings. In that one, FC scored two in the sixth to erase a 2-0 deficit and scored three in the eighth. That was more than enough, as O’Brien and the Tiger defense had a game to remember. The junior pitcher tossed 102 pitches, yet handed out only one walk and allowed just one earned run the entire game.
“I am so proud of how our girls fought back whenever we were down at Districts,” FC Coach Jason Bredemeier said. “Our girls played with a lot of heart. We improved a lot throughout the season, and we were playing our best ball at the right time of the year — at Districts.”
The strong finish, coupled with the close call with No. 7 Malcolm and an earlier near-upset of C1 No. 1 Conestoga, makes one wonder what might’ve been had the team beaten Southern to start the tournament. Or if it had gotten hot earlier, posted a better win-loss record and leap frogged Auburn for the No. 3 seed. The Bulldogs, a one-time contender with real aspirations for a state berth, certainly didn’t use that seeding to their advantage, losing 9-0 in a stunner to 9-18 Syracuse in the opener. Later in the day, AHS fell by eight runs to Southern and failed to even advance to Friday, let alone Hastings. The tourney hosts’ season trajectory was polar opposite of FCHS’, as they boasted a sterling 15-4 record on Sept. 26. Thereafter, the Bulldogs lost seven of its last 10 to finish 18-11.
FCHS has now posted six straight winning seasons and there’s ample reason to think that’ll stretch to seven a year from now. The team graduates Avery Scott, Marissa Ogden and Josie Lunsford. The Lady Tigers return all it’s pitching and hitting statistical leaders, including O’Brien, Molly Brown, Rylee Scholl, Morgan Bletscher, Bailey Armbruster, Meredith Poppe and Bailey Gilkerson.
The Tigers set a team record with a .349 batting average and shattered the previous doubles record of 59, set in 2012, with 72 this fall. Final team and individual stats will appear in next week’s Journal.