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Stars blast Blackhawks for first win

Mar. 21—SHERIDAN — There is a delicate balance when it comes to making a non-conference schedule.

Most coaches want to challenge their teams against some tough teams, but also have some games that allow them to mentally reset and gain some momentum at the right time.

That has been the microcosm of the opening week of the season for the Western Boone softball team.

They challenged themselves against a quality 4A opponent in Noblesville to start the season, then used some of those lessons learned to top Sheridan 17-2 in five innings on Thursday night.

"I'm glad we got the game in tonight," Vanderpool said. "Playing against Noblesville, we learned a lot of things and then we were able to come out tonight and get a win before spring break. The girls are feeling good about where we are at heading into the break."

Vanderpool said the week is set up in a way that tells themselves a lot about themselves.

Playing a team like Noblesville, it shows you some things you need to work on and fix before getting into conference play and the sectional later in the year.

Then in a game like Thursday, you can work on some of those things.

"I like this situation," Vanderpool said. "Not only do we learn a lot from it, but the girls can get some confidence too. There were a lot of things I liked from the game tonight."

One thing that really stood out was the way the Stars offense clicked, especially in the first two innings.

WeBo scored nine runs in the first and six in the second, and would have been more if they didn't intentionally step off bases to end the threat in the second inning.

Every player in the line-up reached base during the rallies, with Emma Shirley recording three hits and Morganne Grant having a hit and two walks.

"The girls were aggressive with their swings and hitting the ball hard," Vanderpool said. "There were a couple of errors in there, but we were hitting the ball hard and making sure we put it in play. We ran the bases aggressively too."

Western Boone's pitching and defense was also solid.

Gabby Lewis pitched the first three innings, allowing just one walk and striking out seven. Kenzlei Mathews pitched the final two innings, and struck out two.

Over the past two seasons, Lewis has carried the heavy load in the circle for the Stars. While she is expected to get a lot of innings again, the Stars have more depth at pitching this year with some of the younger players and Vanderpool said that can be a big benefit to the team.

"Our goal is to keep Gabby as fresh as possible but we still want to get her innings," Vanderpool said. "I thought she pitched really well tonight. She was throwing hard and hitting her spots. We are wanting to see some of our other pitchers too and I thought Kenzlei did a great job of her first varsity appearance."

Shirley was 5-for-5 with four runs scored and three RBIs, hitting two doubles and a triple. Mickey Burns was 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Grant went 1-for-2 with two walks, two RBIs and two runs scored. All nine starters scored with six players scoring multiple runs.

Western Boone is now off for Spring Break and returns to action on Tuesday, April 2 when they face Brownsburg.

"Hopefully we come back with a good focus and mentality," Vanderpool said. "We are only going to have one practice before we face a good Brownsburg team. It's going to be another good learning experience. It's set up a lot like this week, facing Brownsburg, then following it up with Faith Christian. We have to come in with the right mentality."

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.