Stars' defense shines in win over Tigers

May 22—LEBANON — At the beginning of the season, the Western Boone softball team put a lot of emphasis on improving their defense.

On Tuesday night, all that emphasized paid off, as the Stars had several strong plays in the field that helped lead them to a 6-1 win over Lebanon.

"We played good defense tonight," Western Boone head coach Mike Vanderpool said. "Both Gabby and Ally (Lewis) did a great job pitching and we will probably have to use the same combo tomorrow against Tri-West. At this time of the year, it's all about finding a way to move on."

The epitome of the success of the Stars' defense came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Trailing 6-1, Lebanon got a lead-off walk, hoping to get a final rally started.

Lebanon's MacKenzie Carey then followed with a hot shot to second base, where WeBo's Kenzlei Mathews made a tremendous diving stop, but the throw was ruled to be late to first.

After a fly out, Addy Zell lined a shot to left center that seemed destined to drive in multiple runs, but WeBo left fielder Kirstin McCormick made a fantastic diving catch, then doubled off the runner at second to end the game.

"Kenzlei made a great play, whether we got the call or not," Vanderpool said. "Then that was a fantastic catch by Kirstin to end it. Our defense made great plays tonight and I'm just proud of them. They are leaving it all out on the field."

Vanderpool said in a sectional tournament when the games come quickly, plays like that can carry over into the next game.

"I hope so," Vanderpool said. "When you get into the post-season, anything can happen. We have to play a perfect game. We have to play defense like we did tonight, our pitchers have to pitch well and we have to find a way to get a couple runs."

For Lebanon, it was a tough end to the season, where they finished 19-12.

The Tigers gave themselves some chances, just found themselves with too big of a hole to climb.

"WeBo is a great team and it was just one inning that killed us," Lebanon head coach Robert Archambeau said. "We struggled in the first inning stopping their bats and they are really talented. We just couldn't catch up. We fought until the end, but all it takes is one bad inning."

The Stars got all the runs they would need in the opening inning.

WeBo led off the game with three-straight singles from Emma Shirley, Ally Lewis and Gabby Lewis to make it 2-0. The Tigers looked like they would limit the damage, getting the next two hitters out, but Mathews kept the inning alive with an RBI-single and Morganne Grant then reached on an error.

Dottie Wilson then came through with a 2-run single to make it 5-0.

Western Boone only got one run after that — from an RBI-double off the bat of Mathews in the fifth — but got off to the start they were looking for.

"We had some hard hits after that, but Lebanon just stepped up their defense too," Vanderpool said. "Thank goodness we got those runs early."

Lebanon tried to rally in the third to make things interesting.

An error, single and walk loaded the bases with one out. A ground out got the second out, but Krryn Miller reach on an infield single to make it 5-1.

With the tying run at the plate, Gabby Lewis got a big strike out to get out of the jam, and kept WeBo's lead at four.

"We felt like if we could get one or two more there, it was a whole new game," Archambeau said. "But at the end of the day, every at bat and every pitch you have to adjust in this game, and we just couldn't add on any more in that inning."

Lebanon stranded two in the sixth and one in the seventh, but only had four hits in the game with Carey and Miller each having two.

The Tigers graduate Lillie Hollingsworth and Avery Blount, but return the rest of the team.

"I'm excited about our pitchers coming back, they did a great job this year," Archambeau said. "We had a young team that worked really hard during a year we had to build up again. That's what I am going to remember about this group."

Gabby Lewis struck out nine in four innings.

Ally Lewis was 3-for-4 at the plate, with Shirley and Mathews each having two hits.

The Stars face Tri-West on Wednesday for the sectional title.

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