With their thrilling regional championship triumph over Southmont behind them, the Oak Hill Golden Eagles faced their toughest challenge of the season on Saturday morning against the No. 1 ranked Bremen Lions in the Laville semi-state.
And despite a tremendous effort, Oak Hill’s magical playoff run came to an end, as the Lions scored four runs in each the third and fourth innings on their way to a 9-0 shutout victory.
The Golden Eagles’ offense was unable to solve Bremen pitchers’ Kaelyn Shively and Catiln Traxler, who combined to pitch a three-hit shutout. Shively struck out four over six innings, while Traxler pitched one scoreless frame.
The contest was close in the two innings, as neither team was able to put a dent in the scoreboard. The Golden Eagles were able to put runners on base, but could not capitalize on their opportunities.
But in the third inning, a few uncharacteristic defensive errors by Oak Hill proved costly.
“They’re a top-ranked team in the state for a reason,” Oak Hill Head Coach Ben Johnson said. “In the first two innings, we played our game. We played solid defense. We got runners in scoring position. Then the third inning comes along. They get two girls on, we get two outs, and we get the ground ball that we want, and we just made a big mental error. That led to three errors…and four runs in that inning – all [of which] were unearned.”
Armed with a four-run lead, Shively and Traxler did the rest, shutting down the Golden Eagles’ bats and not allowing them to find any sort of rhythm. In the fourth inning, the Lions added to their lead, scoring four more runs, before adding one more insurance run in the seventh to secure the victory.
Oak Hill started to get back to their game in the fifth inning, making contact with the ball and playing sound defense, but they were unable to cut into Bremen’s advantage.
“You can’t do that to Bremen,” Johnson said. “As soon as you hand them any runs, you put yourself in a real tough situation. It didn’t just hurt us on the scoreboard – I thought it hurt us a little bit mentally. I really thought those four unearned runs kind of put us behind the ball and we really started pushing.”
Though the loss ended Oak Hill’s season, it was one that will be remembered for a long time to come. The Golden Eagles finished the campaign with 21 wins, and they capped it off with two-extra inning classic, their first sectional championship since 2014, and their first regional championship in school history.
“After the game, all we did was focus on positives,” Johnson said. “It was a really great, fun year. It was really fun to go to Laville and play the top team in the state. There were a ton of positives. It was so cool to watch them, for the last time with that whole group, pointing out individuals that they were impressed with.”
It could not have been done without Oak Hill’s tremendous senior leadership. Jenessa Hasty, Kaela Robey, Kaleigh Hollars, Bayli Toy, Ashlyn Transier, and Elizabeth Wood helped lead the Golden Eagles to one of the best four-year stretches in the program’s history, winning 76 games to along with their two aforementioned championships.
This senior class is one of the most talented to come through Oak Hill, and Grant County, in recent memory – a notable group of young women who played the game of softball the right way. They led by example. They loved one another unconditionally. They lifted each other up and encouraged their younger teammates. And most importantly, they laid the groundwork for the future success of Oak Hill softball, leaving a legacy behind that will not be forgotten.
“It’s tough losing those talented players, but the bigger hole is going to be [that] eight awesome girls are gone,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of great leadership. They were the encouragers. It was so vital to the team.
“These were four awesome years.”