LAFARGEVILLE — Before taking the field for the Red Knight’s “D” Division game against Belleville Henderson, on Friday, the LaFargeville softball team huddled together and shouted their motto: “Unfinished business.”
Seven innings later, Sarah Johnson got Hannah Goodwin swinging for strike three to secure the Red Knights’ 10-5 win, keeping their record perfect for at least one more game.
After coach Danielle Wallace finished a lengthy postgame talk with her players in the pitching circle, the Red Knights again huddled together and shouted their motto: “Unfinished business.”
The motto is a callback to last season’s Section 3 Class D tournament loss to Fabius- Pompey in the quarterfinals. With the majority of the Red Knights’ starting squad being seniors, this season is their last shot at claiming another sectional title for LaFargeville (the other came in 2016).
In the other dugout was Belleville Henderson, another senior-heavy squad looking to redeem the loss in last season’s sectional finals — also to Fabius-Pompey.
For as good as the Panthers have been this year they couldn’t overcome the Red Knights, who locked up the division last weekend. But playing against LaFargeville for the second time this year, the Panthers proved they could hang with the league’s best, a point that coach David Green constantly made to his team during and after the game.
Generally, the Red Knights (11-0, 10-0) have relentlessly toppled their opponents — they’ve scored 20-plus runs on three times — so having the chance to play a close game against the Panthers (8-4, 8-4) before playoffs begin was beneficial.
“We definitely have to clean it up and be more selective at the plate as get into playoffs and sectionals,” LaFargeville catcher Izzy Soluri said.
Soluri had two hits. However, her time crouched behind the plate was just as important.
Johnson pitched the whole game, like she has on multiple occasions this season. Allowing six hits — three of which came off the bat of Lexi Moyer — and four walks, it wasn’t her cleanest performance of the year; Soluri played a huge role in keeping Johnson from unraveling.
“[Soluri and Johnson] are a great tandem to have, it’s going to be tough to replace them,” Wallace said. “You know, Izzy and Sarah feed off each other very very well, and there are times when Izzy can go out there and calm Sarah down when what we have to say may not be [enough]. Izzy and her have that good friendship together off the field also, so Izzy knows what she needs to say to her to get her back to where she needs to be.”
Once the seventh inning came along, Johnson had little trouble putting the Panthers away, despite having to face the middle part of the lineup. Her two strikeouts in the final frame made it eight overall.
“I focused more,” Johnson said of her final few innings. “I knew that we couldn’t give up any more runs so I couldn’t walk anybody, but I knew that my team was behind me so if I did slip, that they would have my back.”
The Red Knights are primarily seniors, and Wallace has had the conversation with her team multiple times.
“This is the last chance to make it happen,” Wallace said. “And they know it.”