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The Western Reserve Academy softball team continued to show improvement in 2014 under second-year coach Tim McQuait.
The Pioneers, who were led by senior co-captains Kelsey Gordon and Carly Kief, capped off the season with a dramatic walk-off win against Willoughby Andrews Osborne Academy.
Trailing 12-6 in the bottom of the seventh inning, current sophomore Hudson resident Brooke Hovan started the rally with a solo home run. Run-scoring hits by senior Anna McMurchy, Gordon and Kief eventually tied the score, before sophomore Makena Hayes drove home sophomore Sidney Preston (Hudson) with the winning run.
"Our team's incredible comeback is something I will never forget," Hayes said. "I wanted our team to get this win with all of my heart because these girls have changed my life. No group of people has ever treated me better or made me feel more like a part of something."
"The softball team has always been like a family and that win perfectly demonstrates the success that comes from working together and being there for each other, even when we are down," Gordon said.
Gordon was named the team's Most Valuable Player after leading the team with a batting average of .429.
"Kelsey led our offense with an impressive batting average, but even more stunning was her on-base percentage of .515, meaning that every time she came to the plate, there was a better than 50 percent chance that she would get on base, which is quite the accomplishment," Reserve head coach Tim McQuait said.
"In addition to her offense, she helped lead a young defense, always telling the team where the next play should be. At times, it was like having another coach on the field."
Senior Darby Johnson (Hudson) and junior Sierra Gibbons shared Most Improved Player honors.
"Darby greatly improved her bat and plate discipline, owning an on-base percentage of .447 and drawing 14 walks," McQuait said. "She also helped solidify our defense in the middle of the infield, turning double plays and displaying leadership to the underclassmen around her.
"Sierra provided a constant presence for us on the mound as a pitcher and was someone whom the team leaned upon. She threw 39 innings this year with 29 strikeouts and picked up her first win as a high school pitcher. Sierra also provided us with a key bat in the middle of the lineup, batting .348 with an on-base percentage of .423."
The Coaches/Spirit award was presented to McMurchy.
"Anna always hustles and goes beyond what is expected," McQuait said. "Whenever I asked the team to run another lap or do one more drill, she did it without hesitation. In addition to her positive spirit and upbeat personality that kept everyone on the team engaged, she was a vital member of our outfield, providing a solid defensive presence throughout the year."
In addition to the returning award winners, the Pioneers will count on junior Kristina Kaszei Hovan (.444 batting average), Hayes (.464 average) and junior Hudson resident Rachel Morris.
The team will be led by co-captains Johnson and McMurchy.