COLUMBIA — All eyes were fixated on the ball as it floated toward the left-field fence.
For a second, it had seemed as if the Hickman softball team had tied the game in the seventh inning. Junior Sydney Washington had lofted a ball hard to the outfield in an attempt to continue the Kewpies’ postseason run.
Then, the ball was caught a few feet inside the park.
Hickman players were shocked that the hit did not clear the fence. The wind, which had not affected the game much all day, had kept the hit from turning into a home run by a margin of only a few feet.
“I was praying it would go over,” Washington said. “I was, like, wind be with me and just take it out.”
The Kewpies lost to Helias Catholic 2-1 in the semifinals of the Class 4, District 9 tournament Thursday at Cosmopolitan Park.
Washington’s near-home run would’ve tied the game with one out in the top of the seventh. After she sent the ball deep, the entire Hickman team yelled in anticipation, egging on the ball toward the fence.
“I thought we had it,” freshman Molly Carter said. “Honestly, I thought it was gone. I thought we were going to get another rally going.”
When asked if she thought the wind had kept the ball in play, Carter expressed no doubt. Hickman coach Courtney Haskell said she was positive that if it hadn’t been for the wind, Washington’s hit would have sailed out of the park.
“Oh, it would’ve been out. It would’ve been over the trees,” Haskell said. “I needed someone to turn the fan off.”
Washington said she just wished she could have kept the team's hopes alive.
“Hit the ball square off the bat,” Washington said when asked if she would have done anything differently.
Helias Catholic was the favorite to win the game, but Hickman played strong and held a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Kewpies took the lead in the third off a solo home run from Carter. It was a gift for her father, whose birthday was Thursday.
“He had asked for a home run,” Carter said. “He said, ‘one wish.’"
Although Hickman ended the season at 14-12, the team tried to stay positive.
Haskell huddled her players, and aside from telling them how proud she was, she kept them smiling and laughing.
She was being strong for her players. Afterwards, she choked up when recalling what she told her seniors.
“Eight seniors is a big core to lose,” Haskell said. “Most of them played all four years. … They left an impact on our program. They each bring something different to the team. It didn’t always go the way they wanted, but they came back.”