CHILLICOTHE — At this time of the year, if you don’t enter games focused and ready to play from the get-go, you very well could be staring down the barrel with a season-ending loss looking at you on the other side.
Westfall came into Saturday’s Division III Southeast District championship at Unioto High School riding a high after routing Alexander by a 10-0 final in the team’s district semifinal.
That night, the Mustangs were focused, ready to play and clicking on all cylinders.
But Saturday morning told quite the opposite tale in a 10-0, five-inning loss to Ironton.
“A lot of it … the kids have to come mentally ready,” Westfall coach Fred Redman said. “There are things we worked on and today, we kind of did everything the opposite way of what we worked on. Sometimes, when you have a game like that, you run into a team that has their bats warmed up. That’s hard to stop.”
From the opening pitch, the Tigers (26-1) were locked in.
Mary Burton led off with a double and later scored on a passed ball, just before Taiya Hamlet gave Ironton a 2-0 lead with an RBI groundout heading into the bottom half of the first inning.
On the contrary, the Mustangs (23-6) saw their first six hitters retired in order.
In the third, Ironton added to its lead and took a 5-0 lead, scoring on a solo homer from Burton and RBI singles from Keegan Moore and Haylee Stevens.
Westfall didn’t get its first base hit until the fourth inning, thanks to Ayzia Fullen. That was just one two hits the Mustangs’ offense tallied throughout the entire game.
“[Ironton pitcher Keegan Moore] made us chase her pitches instead of us hitting our pitches,” Redman said. “We said not to chase up and to make her come down to us. We kept chasing. We did everything the opposite of what we worked on.”
In the top half of the fifth, the Tigers sealed the deal scoring five runs. Those came along thanks to an RBI single from Stevens, a two-run double from Kylee Richendollar and a two-run homer off the bat of Kiandra Martin — the final dagger.
The loss forces the Mustangs to say goodbye to two seniors in Sami Tackett and Andie Heaney.
“Sami came in as a freshman and was a four-year player for us. She played a solid first base and just improved every year,” Redman said. “Andie was a great kid and improved as well. They’ll be sadly missed.”
Westfall ends a season where it finished 14-0 in the Scioto Valley Conference and returned to a district final for the first time since 2017.
Next spring, they’ll bring back a cast that includes eight returning starters and will, once again, be looked at as the favorite to win their conference.
“We always strive for the Gold Ball. That’s the first thing. Then, we see how far we can get in the tournament,” Redman said. “My goal is always, if we lose and somebody beats us and we’re playing well, they beat us. Today, I don’t think we played that well.”