Hopes of having a local softball champion were dashed Friday afternoon when Blanchard was knocked out of the 4A state tournament in the semifinal round by top-ranked Hilldale 5-2.
In cool conditions with showers coming and going, the Lady Lions found it difficult to get a hit off the pitching of Destiny Riddle, who recorded nine strikeouts and let up just two hits. Lauren Miller's single in the seventh followed by a two-run home run shot by Blanchard pitcher Ashli Hafford were a few late instances of solid Lions offense.
"We got rattled early and seemed to not snap out of it." Blanchard head coach Joe Miller said. "They played great after they settled in. We committed some errors, which cost us the ballgame, obviously. We just couldn't overcome that."
On top of her performance on the mound, Riddle proved a challenge from the plate, setting up two runs while going one-for-three and recording an RBI.
A walk and an error early on is what rattled Blanchard. The throw to first to get Hilldale's Casady Mills out went high, sending Mills running all the way to third and bringing in a run. Hafford held her nerve, however, and struck out two batters to end the inning without further incident.
Despite giving up eight walks, Riddle kept the Lady Lions from stringing anything together. She recorded a strikeout in every inning but the fifth, and more than once left Blanchard base runners stranded.
"We had bases loaded early with our two best hitters up, and both of them struck out, which hasn't happened all year," Miller said. "As a coach you take that gamble that you're going to get that hit when it's time to hit. It didn't happen for us today."