Bellmont's hitters just couldn't get a good figure out Western pitcher Katie Daine as the senior hurler changed speeds and moved the ball around, limiting the Squaws to two hits in a 4-1 regional victory Tuesday night at the BHS field.
"I thought we played a really good defensive game. Our hits didn't come through, but all you can think about is how hard you played," said Bellmont senior catcher Dana Kaczmarek, one of three Bellmonters who played their last game Tuesday night.
It was obvious that Kaczmarek and the Squaws, despite coming in with a 7-15 record to the 20-9 of Western, felt that they belonged in the game, and played like it. The Panthers scored two runs in the third, then Bellmont made it a 2-1 game after six. Western added two unearned runs in the seventh after a throwing miscue.
"Like (Coach Burkhalter) Rick said, we were 2-0 when we came into this game and that's all that mattered," said Kaczmarek.
"Both pitchers threw well, but, for whatever reason, when we hit the ball it was right at 'em. They got the hits when they needed them, and that was the difference," stated first-year BHS head coach Rick Burkhalter.
In the third inning, leadoff hitter Emma Glover singled, then advanced on a ground out and scored on a double over the centerfielder's head by Sam Hemming. With two out, Carly O'Neal singled up the middle to score Hemming. BHS hurler Brieann Burkhalter got the next hitter to ground out to end the threat.
Burkhalter had overcome two walks in the first and Kaczmarek ended the fourth by throwing out Morgan Grove trying to steal second. Western put two runners on in the fifth and sixth, but Burkhalter benefitted from a diving catch of a line drive in the fifth by left fielder Taylor Kuhnle, and induced Glover to hit it back to the mound to end the sixth.l
Senior Jessica Lee skipped a grounder off the shortstop's glove to start the BHS sixth and was sacrificed to second by Mikala Quinn. Burkhalter singled to right to advance Lee. Kaczmarek hit a one-hopper to Daine, who took her time in tossing a weak, underhand throw to first as Lee raced home and beat the tag to cut the lead to 2-1.
Ally Davenport singled to start the Western seventh, then Hemming drew a walk. A low pitch bounced away from Kaczmarek, who recovered and hurried a throw to third, but it was high, allowing a run to score.
Burkhalter got the next to hitters to pop out to short. Kate Johnson hit a looping single to score Hemming with the final Western run.
Daine fanned six and walked two. Lauren Bowman had the only other Bellmont hit. Burkhalter struck out one, walked five and allowed two earned runs.
"It was an up-and-down season. When we'd finally get outside and get something done, we seemed to take two steps back," said Burkhalter, who noted that the Squaws lost five games by one run.
Still, Bellmont did not lose focus.
"I still believed we could win sectional. That was one of our goals," said Kaczmarek, who plans to attend Purdue next fall. "I just knew we were going to come around and win sectional again."
"Losing a game like this is tough, losing those three seniors ... they'll really be missed," said Burkhalter of Kaczmarek, Lee and second baseman Sara Williamson.
"I know my daughter is going to miss Kaczmarek. That's the only catcher she has ever had. And Dana called every pitch today and all year," praised Burkhalter.
Burkhalter was amazed at how his team played to get to regional. "How many situations we got out of last Saturday, really tough ones, was something. I've never seen a team bear down like that and refuse to lose. It was nice and kind of made up for the season we had and keep the sectional thing going," said the coach of the 10-inning win over Peru for the title.