DeKALB — As members of the Putnam County softball team walked off the field Monday, they broke away from each other and into the arms of family and friends.
The Lady Panthers needed some comfort before gathering for one last team meeting.
For the second year in a row, Putnam County lost in the Class 1A Northern Illinois University Super-Sectional.
This time it was a 1-0 loss to Amboy that ended the careers of seven PC seniors who helped the program to three consecutive regional championships.
“I think (our season) went well. It didn’t ended how we wanted it, but it was our last season together and we wanted to go out with a bang and I still think we did,” PC senior Cary Gonet said.
The Lady Panther offense — which averaged 7.3 runs per game this season — didn’t have its typical bang Monday as it managed just four hits.
“You’re not going to get any bad teams now,” PC coach Chris Walker said. “They’re solid. They’re great hitters and we knew that going in. We were doing our best just to wait and see what was going to occur and try to take advantage of the opportunities that were given to us, and we just didn’t make enough of those happen.”
The game started well for PC as lead-off hitter Stephanie Wilson singled on the first pitch she saw.
However, after two consecutive strikeouts, the inning ended when Wilson was called for interference on a ground ball to the shortstop.
PC got another runner in scoring position in the second inning when Monica Monroe reached on an error and stole second, but the next three batters flew out.
The Lady Panthers didn’t get another runner to second base until the sixth inning when Nikki Mertel reached on a fielder’s choice and took second on a wild pitch.
With two outs, Annie Miller smacked a single into right field and Mertel raced for home.
However, Amboy right fielder Delaney Wilhelm fired to catcher Katlyn Liebing, who put the tag on Mertel to keep PC off the scoreboard.
“In a close game, you’re going to have to take a shot. It just didn’t work out that time,” Walker said. “It was a bang-bang play. I have no problem with the call.
“We were just looking for a mistake to take advantage of. A little bobble and we would have had it. We hustled, we hooked it and we got the backside of the plate … but she made a great play. It was a great throw and a great tag.”
Gonet singled with one out in the seventh, but the next batter flew out. After Allison Voss drew a walk, a strikeout ended the game.
The Lady Panthers stranded six runners in the game.
(Amboy pitcher Karlee Doege) got us on a riseball a couple times,” Miller said. “She was throwing to where we were grounding out. We just didn’t execute when we needed it.”
Amboy’s lone run came in the bottom of the fifth.
With two outs, Hannah McCoy drew a walk after PC pitcher Shelby Yepsen was called for an illegal pitch for ball three.
Delaney Wilhelm, the No. 9 hitter, then belted a ball that got over the head of Wilson in centerfield, allowing McCoy to score from first.
“We were just trying to move it in and out and up and down and keep them off balance,” Walker said. “(Wilhelm) made a great swing on a really good pitch. She earned it. I tell the girls all the time, ‘If you give it away, that’s one thing, but if you make somebody earn it, you have nothing to worry about it.’”
The Lady Panthers end the season 28-8.
“It was great,” Miller said about the season. “It was great to come back this far. I’m going to miss every single one of the seniors. I’ve been so blessed to have been on their team.
“I’m sad we came up short today, but we had an amazing season. I could not ask for better teammates.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.