by Rob Grubbs & Christopher Dunn

Whitewater and Starr’s Mill continued their recent runs among the state’s top softball squads, with both qualifying for a trip to Columbus last week to play among the best eight teams in Class AAAAA. Neither team was able to capture a championship in the double-elimination tournament, but there’s plenty of hope a title is ahead in years to come. 

Whitewater opened against Jones County on Thursday. They fell behind 3-0 by the 3rd inning and tried to stage a rally. Raeghan Byrom blasted a solo home run to get the Cats on the top of the 4th, and in the 5th inning she drew a bases-loaded walk to cut the lead to 3-2, but they would get no closer against the Greyhounds. 

The Wildcats got off to a quick start on Friday. Kyye Ricks got a leadoff single and forced an error that put her on second. After a walk to Jillian Anderson and a wild pitch, Whitewater had a 1-0 lead and a runner on third and no outs. Alexis Larrow grounded out to score Anderson, and the Cats had a 2-0 lead. 

Kyna Cheney settles under a fly ball during the state softball tournament in Columbus on Thursday.           
(Photo by Michael Clifton /

Unfortunately, Harris County came right back with three runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back. Whitewater loaded the bases in the top of the 6th, but couldn’t scratch a run across and eventually fell 8-2 to conclude their season. 

Starr’s Mill opened up against the defending champion Locust Grove Wildcats Thursday evening. Delayed starting nearly two hours while River Ridge and Northgate staged a 12-inning classic on the field, there was another thriller to come. 

Sophomore pitcher Lilli Backes pitched another gem, keeping Locust Grove off the scoreboard until the 3rd inning when they squeaked out a run on an infield single and a sacrifice. 

Starr’s Mill tied the score with some crafty baserunning in the 5th inning as Lauren Flanders faked a steal of second base to bait a throw, allowing Kalin Blinstrub to race home from third base. 

In the top half of the 6th Locust Grove scratched out one more run for the final tally in their 2-1 win. 

Sarah Latham tracks down a long fly ball against Locust Grove.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)

The Panthers fell behind in their elimination game when the Carrollton Trojans pushed a run across in the first inning, but they answered with a home run from Jolie Lester to tie things up.  Lester was key in the next run as well. She walked and stole second and later scored on some nifty baserunning for a 2-1 lead. 

Backes got into a jam 6th inning with the bases loaded and not outs, but she was able to get out of the inning. Carrollton took a 3-2 lead and held on for the win. 

For the season, both the Whitewater Wildcats and Starr’s Mill Panthers finished 27-8.