Winfield Mt. Union was one run away from ending Hillcrest Academy’s senior night early with an 11-2 lead in the fifth inning on Tuesday. But the Ravens aren’t a team that gives up easily. Hillcrest did not allow another run and the Raven seniors scored five runs in the final inning on their home diamond in an 11-7 loss.
“We came up in that seventh inning with our five seniors right in a row, starting with Evelyn Gerber in the leadoff position,” Hillcrest coach Kent Blossom explained. “It was just a tremendous effort from all five of them to really spark one of our better innings in our season.”
Freshman Malia Yoder was 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs in the loss and Gerber was 3-for-4 as well.
“It was so surreal,” Gerber said about the final inning. “We were just not expecting that. And then we just strung a bunch of hits together. We had a lot of energy going and it felt really good to keep it up.”
All five seniors made contributions for the Ravens on Tuesday. Esther Hughes had two hits and scored two runs for the Ravens. Leah Bontrager had a hit and two RBIs. Grace Miller had a hit, a walk, and drove in a run. Norah Yoder had a hit and scored a run as well.
“It felt good having everyone out to come support us and watch us,” Gerber said. “It was fun playing on our home field, but sad that it was ending.”
The Ravens snapped a 40-game losing streak earlier in the season with a 10-9 win over Mediapolis. A 12-0 win over Danville was the program’s first shutout victory since 2013 and the 4-18 finish was the program’s best since 2017.
The girls senior class at Hillcrest helped the entire athletic program take a step forward over the past season.
The volleyball team won ten games after having just three total wins over the previous two seasons combined. In cross country, Bontrager became a four-time state qualifier. The Raven seniors brought back the Hillcrest basketball program, which did not compete the previous year.
Over the past two spring seasons, Hughes, Gerber, Bontrager and Julia Boller won 20 games in a soccer co-op with Mid-Prairie. And Bontrager set a new school record in the 800-meter run in her final state track & field meet appearance.
“Collectively they’re a really tight-knit group,” Blossom said. They have had success separately in different sports, but softball is really the one that all five of them can come together and play with one another.”
Those friendships were strong enough to bring back all five seniors for one last softball season. Even though they graduated on May 29 and they hadn’t won a game since 2019, they all wanted to play one more season together as Ravens.
“I think that the social part of it — bus rides, practices, and even the games, it’s just something that brings us together one last time,” Gerber said. “And that made us decide to stick it out and just enjoy being together one last time.”
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