Lions State Runner Up
An anticipated rebuilding year for the Liberty Union- Thurston Lions softball team ended up with the softball program’s first-ever trip to the state tournament.
“I never dreamed of this at the beginning of this season,” head coach Bill Putnam said after the Lions defeated # 6 ranked and 2010 state runner-up West Liberty-Salem 1-0 to reach Saturday’s state final. “We had a lot of people graduate. I didn’t know how we would jell.”
The team, built around junior ace Sara Klopfer and senior catcher Megan VAn Almsick, “jelled” into a team that finished as Division III state runner-up with a #3 ranking in the state before the tournament and a 27-3 record.
Thursday’s state semi-final with West Liberty-Salem was a pitcher's duel. Klopfer held the Tigers to one hit, while striking out 11. The Tigers’ Becka Peterson struck out nine Lions and the score was knotted at 0-0 until the Lions came to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning.
With one out, Taylor Dickson, Klopfer and Van Almstick all singled to load the bases for Sam Mowery. Her infield grounder scored the game’s only run when the Tigers went for the force out at third rather than at home.
Klopfer then shut down the Tigers in the seventh onetwo three on two pop-ups and a strikeout.
In Saturday’s state final against undefeated and # 1 ranked Warren Champion, the Lions quickly answered Champion’s one run in the first inning with two runs in their half of the inning.
The Lions held that 2- 1 lead into the fifth inning when disaster struck. After getting the first Golden Flash to pop-up, Champion tied it up after two singles, then went ahead 3-2 on a triple. Ten straight batters got on base making the score 9-2 before the Lions got the second out. A triple made it 11-2 and the game was basically over. Neither team scored again.