ARCANUM — The look of frustration and disappointment was obvious on Eaton softball coach Maggie Neanen’s face.
The same could be said about the entire team and coaching staff.
Neanen’s Eagles made their way back to a fifth straight district final (minus 2020 where COVID forced a state-wide cancellation of spring sports), but as was the case in the previous four trips, the result of this game was the same.
Eaton battled state-ranked Springfield Shawnee but couldn’t overcome allowing six unearned runs en-route to a season-ending 16-6 defeat in a Southwest District Division II district final on Friday, May 20, at Arcanum High School.
The Eagles finish the season 13-9.
“We beat ourselves,” Neanen said. “Again, our starting lineup, this is a first for a lot of our kids at this stage and you could see it. Getting here is awesome but we beat ourselves.”
Eaton fell behind 2-0 after a pair of solo home runs by the Braves in the top of the first. Shawnee added four more runs in the second for a 6-0 lead
Eaton responded with four runs in the bottom of the second to make it a 6-4 game.
The Braves added an unearned run in the fourth for a 7-4 lead.
In the fifth, the game got away from the Eagles. Eaton committed two errors which led to five unearned runs and a 12-4 deficit.
The Eagles scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to get back within 12-6.
Shawnee added four more runs in the sixth to close out the scoring, while forcing Eaton to leave runners on second and third in the bottom of the inning to end the game.
Anna Kramer was 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs. Olivia Baumann was 2-for-4. Abbie Bryant went 1-for-3 with 2 RBIs and Allison Mowen added a hit and RBI.
Five of the Eagles 10 players who palyed in the game were making their first appearance at this level.
In the Eagles previous four trips they had never scored more than four runs.
“It’s the most runs we’ve put up in a district final in five times, so just disappointed,” Neanen said.
Despite the disappointment of falling in the Round of 32 for a fifth straight year Neanen said she is proud of her team for making it back to the title game.
“The kids work hard,” she said. “To come out of here 13-9, second in the league, another district runner up. I mean, can’t be too mad about a season like that, but it sucks not getting a gold.”
Winning a district is a goal the program is striving for and Neanen believes those expectations have been handed down from class to class since the 2016 season when the Eagles first played for a district championship.
“I think it sets the standards high for every incoming class,” she said. “They know what we expect. Even the returners, they now what the expectations are. It’s very awesome for the program (but) exhausting as a coach.”
Eaton will graduate seniors Allison Mowen (SS), Anna Kramer (3B, OF), Abbie Bryant (C) and Macy Wright (1B).
“Abbie, Anna, Macy and Ali have been amazing for four years,” Neanen said. “Ali Mowen is probably the best kid, most complete kid, I’ve ever coached in my career including her big sister (Becca, who was part of three district runner-up teams), but I’m going to miss Ali tremendously. I’m going to miss Anna, Abbie behind the plate, Mace at first, they played a huge part of getting us here. They really carried us to get here. So I couldn’t be prouder of them. I think they are the first seniors who can say they went to the district final every year they could. They wanted to keep going and you could see it and I think our kids want to keep playing for our seniors as well. They just needed more experience.”
Eaton opened tournament play with a 19-0 win over Alter on Thursday, May 12. The win was the Eagles 11th straight home tournament win dating back to the 2016 season.
Four players had at least two hits as the Eagles scored in every inning. Baumann was 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs. Mowen was 2-for-3 with two triples. Kramer was 2-for-4 and scored four runs. Lexi Morgan added two hits, including a double.
In the district semifinal, on Tuesday, May 17, Eaton knocked out league rival Brookville, 14-6, at West Carrollton High School.
Eaton scored twice in the second and three times in the third for a 5-0 lead. A six-run fifth gave the Eagles an 11-0 lead.
Brookville cut Eaton’s lead to 11-4 after five. The Eagles responded with three runs in the sixth to extend the lead to 14-4 after 4 ½. The Blue Devils scored a run in the sixth and seventh to close out the scoring.
Baumann and Bryant each had three hits on the night. Baumann was 3-for-5 with a double and four RBIs. Gracie Copper had her best game of the season going 3-for-5 with five RBIs. Mowen and Wright each added two hits.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr