The Western Hills softball team had a big year in 2019, qualifying for the postseason and taking the No. 4 seed into the tournament.
The Cobras would edge No. 5 Ricci 3-1 in the quarterfinal round after getting a bye in the prelims, but would fall in a 7-2 decision to the eventual champ Warwick Vets in the semis.
Despite the loss, Western Hills coach Tom Lewandowski was proud of his club, and felt that it surprised many people along the way after losing a large core of players from last year’s group that was the state runner up.
“They exceeded all of my expectations. The last few years we have gone pretty far, each year you have new kids, a different group, and they exceeded my expectations this year. I am very happy with what we accomplished this year, unfortunately we came up a little short. Our two losses this year came to Vets who went on to win the championship, so you have to give a lot of credit to them,” said Lewandowski.
Although the Hurricanes cruised to the 7-2 win in the semis, the Cobras made some noise as they loaded the bases on multiple occasions and put Vets against the ropes. However, the Hurricanes escaped the jams, and made the plays necessary to close out the win and advance to the finals.
“I didn’t really know what I had going into the season. Obviously, the goal is to always play your best and make it to the big stage. We just came up a little short (against Vets), we had our opportunities in the game, we basically had one bad inning. We had our opportunities though, we had the bases loaded in two different innings but we just couldn’t capitalize,” said Lewandowski.
The Cobras will once again graduate a large eighth-grade core this upcoming offseason, however, Lewandowski expects the retuning players to be hungry to advance the loss, and to be the team that takes the next step and win it all.
“The experience, it’s huge. It was disappointing to come up short, the girls knew how hard they worked, but certainly when they come back next year it will be just as important for those returning players. Last year we made it to the finals, this year the semis, hopefully next year we can play well enough be right back there,” said Lewandowski.
Lewandowski will also miss the soon-to-be high schoolers, who brought excitement to the team every day both on and off the field.
“Each one of them brought something different to the table. They brought leadership, charisma, sportsmanship … they brought a lot of fun,” said Lewandowski. “Teams are different each year, but these girls really made it a lot of fun, and that’s why there were tears at the end. They were a joy to have, and they really made it fun.”