It was an emotional Saturday afternoon during Columbus North’s 5-3 loss against Terre Haute South to close the regular season.
Before the game, Bull Dogs assistant coaches and players, along with former players, paid tribute to head coach Jerry Burton with a ceremony to honor his 23 seasons of coaching softball. Burton is set to retire at the end of the season.
“He has really meant a lot to me ever since I came in as a freshman,” Bull Dogs senior Shannah Hercamp said. “I really wanted to win this game for our coach because I would not be the player I am today if it was not for him.”
“We were real tense to start out the game, and it showed,” North catcher Tommi Stowers said. “Knowing it was our coach’s final (regular-season) game coaching us on our home field; we felt like we owed him this win.”
It was emotional for Burton, as well.
“When I first got into coaching, I thought it was all about winning or losing,” Burton said. “Then I started realizing that I have to be a better role model and not let it be about softball all the time and to help out these young ladies every time they asked for help and always being there for them.”
The Braves (19-9) took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning when MacKenzie McGregor singled to score a run. McGregor would later score off of a wild pitch. However, the Bull Dogs (16-10) would come right back with a run of their own when Stowers hit a groundout to first to score Denisa Brooks to cut the lead 2-1.
Terre Haute South would extend the lead in the third inning when Kelsey Marlow hit a double and would score from McGregor’s second hit of the game. Lauren Parrelle drove home a couple more runs to make it 5-1.
Braves starting pitcher Jessica Swain would prevent North from scoring another run until the sixth. With nobody out and a runner on base, Stowers delivered a two-run homer to deep left field to cut the deficit 5-3.
Swain was relieved by Marlow after giving up the homer. Marlow retired six of the next seven to end the game.
“(Swain) was pitching the ball real low on us,” Stowers said. “That gave us a hard time hitting it in between the gaps. I got the team back up again once I found the right pitch and hit that home run.”
The Bull Dogs will have an extra couple of days to regroup after this loss. They don’t play again until Thursday when they face Shelbyville in the second game of the sectional semifinals at Lincoln Park.
“Facing a great team like Terre Haute South will only help us become better prepared,” Hercamp said. “We will face similar competition in our sectional, so now we just have to practice harder and harder each day and come out ready Thursday.”
“We are going to be doing a lot hitting in practice next week,” Burton said. “I will tell the team that it is not always
the best team that wins but whoever is the best team that night. So we need to show up and play a great game that gives us an opportunity to play in the (sectional) finals.”