FORSYTH – Throughout a historic season for the Forsyth High School softball program, one thing has been a constant.
The team has always been able to put runs on the board. Often times, in bunches.
The Lady Panthers averaged 11.0 runs per game through their first 25 games and scored in double figures in 15 games.
Then in Monday night’s Class 1 sectional game against Purdy, the offense dried up.
Forsyth was shut out for the first time all season, seeing its season end with a 3-0 home loss.
“We’ve hit all year, that’s the first time we’ve not scored runs all season long,” Forsyth coach Collin Lyerla said. “Our girls came out and seemed loose and seemed like they had it, and I don’t think we looked past them.
“We hit the ball hard at times, but we just couldn’t string anything together.”
The teams played in March at the Mt. Vernon Tournament, and Forsyth cruised to a 16-1 victory.
The rematch was a different story, as Purdy pitcher Lauren Schallert kept Forsyth off-balance for nearly the entire game.
The Lady Panthers finished with only four hits – none until the fourth inning, by which time Purdy already led, 2-0. Two of the hits came in the seventh inning, but Forsyth couldn’t get a big hit at the right time.
“The first time we faced her, maybe she was tired or something,” Lyerla said. “But she came out here and was spinning it well and hitting her spots and mixing up speeds.
“I think maybe we were trying to do too much early, and then by the time we adjusted, it was just too much.”
Forsyth put runners on base in every inning. Katrina Drake reached on a one-out error in the first and was stranded on first base.
Kyleigh Kincaid walked to lead off the second inning and stole second base. She was retired on a delayed steal attempt of third base.
Landry Stuart walked with one out in the third but was forced out at second base.
Emily Shipman singled to lead off the fourth inning, but was stranded at second base, as a line shot to center field by Emmalea Cook was hauled in by a diving McKenzie Renkoski to end the inning.
Oletha Rich reached on an error to start the fifth and went to second base on a passed ball, but a pair of Schallert strikeouts ended the inning.
Shipman singled again with one out in the sixth and didn’t get past first base.
In the seventh, Rich and Hope Borkenhagen singled with one out, but a pair of groundouts ended the game.
“All year long, we’ve had those moments where we haven’t played that well, but we knew we were going to score runs,” Lyerla said. “It felt like maybe at the end of the game, the kids were waiting for that to happen, and we just didn’t convert.”
Purdy, which improved to 24-5 overall and advanced to play Mt. Vernon in Thursday’s quarterfinal round of the one-class spring season, finished with six hits.
The Lady Eagles scored a pair of first-inning runs, with Kinsley Mattingly walking to lead off the game, going to second base on a sacrifice, then scoring on a Kylie Wood single with two outs.
Wood came home on a Bayleigh Robbins double.
Renkoski scored Purdy’s third run, in the fifth inning. She reached on a one-out bunt single, then came all the way around to score on a Schallert single to left field.
The loss ended Forsyth’s season with a 22-4 overall record – the most victories in a single season for the program.
The Lady Panthers won the co-championship of the Mid-Lakes Conference in their first season in the league, won the Mt. Vernon Tournament title for the first time ever and spent much of the spring as the second-ranked team in the state.
“The kids played so well, and we’re still super-young,” Lyerla said. “We lose one senior starter in the field and two in the lineup. We’ve got good things coming.”
Lyerla said he will take some time to reflect before looking ahead to the future of the program.
“This loss, it sucks,” Lyerla said. “Looking at the schedule at the beginning of the year, you don’t know what it’s going to look like. Move to the Mid-Lakes, those teams are all good. We knew the level of competition was going up. We didn’t know what we were going to do with that.
“I’ll look forward to next year tomorrow.”