CHILLICOTHE — Huntington arguably played its most complete game this season in Wednesday’s Division III district semifinal against Ironton.
The Huntsmen (17-9) only had one defensive error, which resulted in a stranded base runner, and Kylee Kellough was money in the circle in a complete game effort.
The only problem was the offense couldn’t push that one run across the dish needed to simply tie the game. In effect, Huntington suffered 1-0 season-ending loss to the Tigers (25-1).
“We played good enough to win and we gave ourselves a chance until the final at-bat,” Huntington coach Spenser Smith said. “We hung in tough with a great Ironton team and gave them a run for their money. We had nothing to lose and played really loose, but we couldn’t get that one clutch hit.”
Staying nip and tuck with the Tigers, Huntington continued to give itself a chance to equalize, but made two mistakes in the third inning.
After giving up a leadoff double, Ironton’s Kylee Richendollar stepped to the plate and ripped an RBI single that scored the lone run of the game.
Following that sequence, Kellough refocused and zoned in the rest of the night.
Although she found herself in jams with either the bases loaded or runners on first and third with one out, the sophomore routinely struck out the following batters to keep Ironton at bay.
“This was one of the best games she’d pitched,” Smith said. “She just played, let her defense make plays behind her and that’s what happened. She didn’t have many strikeouts, but she got them when we needed them the most. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Despite Huntington hitters striking out 16 times in the game, it still had one last chance in the seventh.
After a leadoff single from Lillie Snyder, Brodey Entler ripped a single that kicked off the pitcher’s foot before ending up in right field, putting runners on first and third with no outs.
But it wasn’t meant to be for the Huntsmen as the next three batters went down on strikes, ending the 2019 campaign.
“The girls found a way to get on base and we tried what we could to get that run across,” Smith said. “We felt confident since we had the heart of our lineup batting and they did what we needed. But it wasn’t meant to be.”
Despite a roster filled with mainly sophomores and juniors, Huntington took a number of steps forward this season.
The team tallied 17 wins, hung tough with SVC champion Westfall, split the season series with Unioto and won a sectional championship.
Smith’s group will reload next year with Kellough back in the circle alongside seven other returning starters including Snyder, Alyssa Steele and Cami Coil.
“We grew up a lot and understand the game much better,” Smith said. “It wasn’t just going up and swinging. We began to understand plate discipline and where to go defensively with the ball when it’s hit. We have a lot of players returning and it’s important that they know those type of things.”
The loss, however, does force Huntington to say goodbye to three seniors in Entler, Braiden Collins and Riley Black.
“They’ve been awesome and they’re great kids on and off the field,” Smith said. “Braiden is awesome at every sport she plays and is an incredible individual. Brodey has been with me all four years and came through in a lot of clutch situations over the years. Riley was a great catcher and had that personality you want in your dugout to keep everyone loose. They’ll be missed.”