Blue Ridge Softball's Season, Myron Schroeder's Coaching Career with Lady Knights Ends in Final Inning of Sectional Final

DOWNS, Ill. -- Despite a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to Danville Schlarman, Myron Schroeder found a unique perspective as he spoke to his Lady Knights for the final time.

"Like I told them, Oprah had 25 years doing what she loved to do, and I had five at Blue Ridge," Schroeder said. "Like Oprah said, ‘My job’s done.’ I think I did a pretty good job."

In his five-year stint at Blue Ridge, Schroeder led the Lady Knights to three regional titles, including a trip to the University of Illinois in 2009 for the super-sectional.

Although his team could not add a second super-sectional trip to his resume, the Lady Knights rallied to make sure the No. 1-ranked Hilltoppers did not get there without a fight.

Down 5-0 when the game resumed from Saturday's rain delay, Blue Ridge scored five runs in the fourth and fifth innings to tie the game after Danville Schlarman pitcher Kelsey Sollars was forced to give up her headband by the umpires in the fourth inning.

"It’s reflective; you can’t have anything reflective and it’s not school colors," Schroeder said. "It was a distraction because of the sun. It doesn’t take much to distract a pitcher."

Following that, Jordan Wheeler and Jade O'Neal got on base via base on balls and a single that hit the left-field fence, respectively. After Melinda Wilson advanced the runners to second and third base with a groundout, Jamison Brandt smacked a double to center field that scored Wheeler and Alana Strum, who ran for O'Neal.

The two-RBI double made the score 5-2 in favor of Danville Schlarman heading into the fifth inning.

Jordyn Fones led off the inning with an infield single. Then Marcie Crawford hit a single to right-center field to put runners on the corners with Wheeer at bat.

Wheeler hit a single that sent Fones to home plate. O'Neal followed that with a shot that just stayed fair down the third-base line, scoring Crawford.

Wilson hit a ground ball that resulted in a fielder's choice. However, it also resulted in the tying run, as Wheeler crossed home plate.

"We hit the ball," Schroeder said. 

In Danville Schlarman's half of the fifth inning, the Hilltoppers loaded the bases with nobody out via two singles and a bunt that resulted in no throw by Hannah Mattingly, who was playing with a brace around her twisted ankle.

However, the Lady Knights got out of the jam without giving up any runs. Wheeler fielded a bunt and threw out the runner at home plate for the first out.

The next batter hit a fly ball that was caught by Wilson. Wheeler struck out the next batter to end the inning.

Wheeler finishes her junior season with a pitching record of 22-5. She struck out 11 Hilltoppers, including three in a row in the sixth inning.

With one out in the top of the seventh inning, O'Neal got on first base with a walk. With Strum running for her, Wilson hit a single to the outfield.

However, Strum was called out when the umpire ruled that the Danville Schlarman outfielder's throw to second base beat her foot to the bag for the forceout.

"She started with her foot on the base, but when the ball got there, her foot had slid off the backside of the base, and I’m not too sure that she wasn’t already there anyway," Schroeder said. "Wasn’t no question in my mind that she was on the base. [The umpire] was on this side, and her feet are on the other side of the base. The home plate umpire was nowhere to be found. The third base umpire was out watching the ball, where he’s supposed to be. But he’s late, and he’s supposed to go over there and watch the base. He wasn’t. That was a bad call."

Brandt hit a groundout to end Blue Ridge's half of the seventh inning. In the bottom of the seventh, Danville Schlarman's Randi Cookus hit a one-out double to left-center field.

With Sollars at the plate, Cookus attempted to steal third base. O'Neal's throw to third hit Cookus and landed in foul territory, resulting in Cookus crossing home plate for the game-winning run.
"It just didn’t pan out, Schroeder said. "Those are plays that we normally do ourselves. They ran the play. It was just one of those things."

With the loss, Blue Ridge ends its season with a record of 28-6.

"[The season] ended, maybe not with a victory, but my kids were playing hard and showing that they’re probably the better team," Schroeder said. "They did everything that I’d ever asked of them. You gotta see the positives in this. Those kids did great."

Danville Schlarman, meanwhile, will play in its own super-sectional against Dwight on Tuesday.

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