Ravens on target in rebuilding

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The moment was so sweet for Mia Graber, a senior softball player at Hillcrest Academy.

In her final at-bat of her final inning in her high school career, Graber saw a pitch from Highland’s Grace Batcheller that she had to pounce on.

Graber swung, and it was perfect. The ball rocketed off her bat and soared over the right-field fence before it fell to earth again.

“One of the best moments of the year,” said Hillcrest coach Kent Blossom.

In a winless 0-12 season for the Ravens, the home run is what will create the memory for Graber, not a season-ending 13-1 loss to Highland in the opening round of the Class 1A playoffs.

Graber’s smash was just one of two home runs all season for the Ravens. Esther Hughes, a sophomore, hit the other home run earlier in the season against Wapello, a homer that tied the game in a home game at Hillcrest on June 29.

Graber and Hughes were honorable mention selections on the Southeast Super Conference All-Conference Team.

Graber and Sarena Gerber were the only seniors on the team as the Ravens built toward future seasons with three juniors and five freshmen. Leah Bontrager, a sophomore, pitched every inning of every game, striking out 47 and walking just 36 in 64 innings pitched. She struck out a season-high seven against Wapello.

Sarah Miller, a junior, led the team in hitting with a .300 batting average. She had nine hits and drove in a run. Also totaling nine hits was Hughes, a promising underclassman who had two extra-base hits and also led the Ravens with three stolen bases. She scored a team-high five runs.

Bontrager had a pair of stolen bases.

Graber made just one error at first base to lead the Ravens defensively.

The Ravens began the year with a 12-0 loss to Highland, the first of three straight shutouts in which the team was learning its way. The Ravens scored a season-high three runs in a 6-3 loss to Wapello on June 29.

The season ended on a warm July evening in Riverside. After a home run by Graber in the third inning pulled the Ravens to within 3-1 in the third inning against Highland, the powerful Huskies scored 10 runs in the bottom half of the inning to end the Class 1A Regional game.

The Ravens never got another shot at the plate because of the 12-run mercy rule. The 10-run rally gave Highland a 13-1 victory.

“They put pressure on you offensively,” Blossom said.

In addition to the home run, Graber also hit three doubles during the season.

Gerber finished out her senior year with a stolen base.

Seven Ravens players had stolen bases during the season, with only one player in 11 attempts thrown out.

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