The Yorktown Tigers and Cowan Blackhawks attempted to reach the promised land as they continued their journey in the state tournament.
But there are no longer any Delaware County teams left as both teams had their quests cut just short as they were defeated in Saturday’s semi-state.
Yorktown - Twin Lakes 3A Semi-State
In the first game of the 3A semi-state, the Tigers (17-9, 4-3 Hoosier Heritage) trailed Leo (26-2, 6-1 Northeast Eight) 4-1 in the seventh inning. But after a walk by Freshman Emma Reynolds, Yorktown hoped for a comeback at Twin Lakes High School.
With two outs, sophomore Ava Aul grounded the ball to the first and second base gap. But there was one issue. Reynolds was in the same spot. The ball collided with her, which went down as the final out to end the Tiger’s 2023 season.
“We knew all four teams here had a chance to win the semi-state,” Tigers head coach Jeremy Penrod said. “We really had a great week of practice. We were prepared, they were ready and excited. It’s just a couple things that went Leo's way.”
Throughout the day, Yorktown struggled to find the big hit to give themselves a chance to get back in the contest.
This is not the way the Tigers wanted to end their season, but they still had a solid year. To Penrod, this team’s success goes further than the game itself.
“We learned throughout the year and honestly man, this team really came a long way,” he said. “They were super tight without [the coaching staff] trying to arrange lunches or meetings with each other. They did it on their own.”
The Tigers are losing two seniors. One of those seniors, Lizzy Willis, believes that her last season was about growing into a team leader.
“[The seniors this year] tried to push the girls and be like last year’s seniors,” Willis said. “The first couple of games [this season], I kind of picked up on that we actually have to get down on these girls.”
Penod has coached the seniors for most of their softball careers. But he believes that this group is much more than athletes.
“[These seniors] are gonna be great people in life and they're great kids,” he said. “They're great athletes and they're hard workers… If I was a company, I would hire them because they're gonna be the people that you want.”
Cowan - Frankfort 1A Semi-State
Just like in their regional championship, the Blackhawks (23-6, 5-2 Mid-Eastern) opened up their first game of semi-state with a comeback win in the final inning.
And just like the ending of Yorktown’s defeat, the game ended in an unusual way. With a runner on, Rossville (22-7, 7-2 Hoosier Heartland) hit a ground ball to second.
When Blackhawks second baseman, junior Cheyenne Carter, tried to field the ball, the Hornets’ runner ran right into her. The play was ruled runner interference, giving Cowan the win.
But later that night in the championship game, the Blackhawks could not find a rhythm on offense and fell 5-3 to Caston (22-4, 7-0 Hoosier North).
Following the loss, the team met in right field for the final time.
“Don’t hold your heads down,” Cowan head coach Curtis Bynum said. “That is an amazing group of girls right there [as he points to the team]. The message was that we were blessed to be part of their lives for the last 10 years and just seeing them grow up to be women.”
One of the most shocking stats from the semi-state came on the mound. Senior Tatum Rickert has been the Blackhawks’ ace all season. And Saturday, she showed why as she gave it her all.
Tatum walked off the mound after the win against Rossville around 3:15 pm. About four hours later, she was back on the mound and once again, she completed the game. When she recorded the last out of her Cowan career, she had thrown 233 pitches on the day.
“It’s just an inner force to never give up,” Rickert said. “I was always taught about really hard work when I was young, so it's kind of just continued on. When I got older it was just never give up, always dig deep, and leave it on the field.
The Blackhawks are losing five seniors, and in their final game, they showcased something that Bynum has talked about all season: Leadership.
Before every at-bat, a senior would rally the team and give them words of encouragement. One that stood out was senior McKenna Minton.
“I was named team captain [this season],” Minton said.” I really took on that role and was like, I need to help pull this team together. And I feel like we really came together this year, and it shows in our performance.”
The five seniors have played travel ball with each other since they were little. But to Minton, playing for your school has a different vibe.
“When you put on this Cowan uniform and you’re representing your school, it's just a different feeling than travel,” she said. “And I wouldn't change that feeling for the world.”
With the season coming to a close, both programs have nothing to be ashamed of. The Tigers have now won two straight sectional and regional titles, while the Blackhawks have done both in three straight years.