With only one out remaining in the bottom of the seventh inning and a six to zero score on the board, Goreville softball coach Shanna Massey was in tears as the long wait was near its end.
Freshman pitcher Sydnee Rushing delivered a third and final strike out and paused a second while looking back at Massey as if to say, “Now what?”
The team and the fans erupted and Massey’s eyes continued to swell with tears as her girls earned Goreville’s first ever-State title with a 6-0 win over Payson-Seymour in the IHSA’s Class 1A State Softball Tournament held in East Peoria Saturday.
As the team rushed the mound the freshman pitcher’s game face broke into a wide grin. “Now what” was answered with hugs, cheers, pictures, TV cameras, interviews, ribbons, handshakes, more hugs and a trophy that would forever mark the day Goreville won its first State title.
“You are looking at the state champions of 1A softball,” Goreville High School athletic director Todd Tripp said before a crowd of hundreds in the high school gymnasium after a parade through town Sunday as Goreville welcomed home their champions.
“What made me happier than anything yet this weekend was waking up and seeing this,” Tripp is later quoted saying in the Southern Illinoisan as he held high a copy of the Southern with the “State Champions!” headline.
The gymnasium was filled with family, friends and fans as they cheered on the arrival of the softball team and listened in as Goreville Schools’ superintendent Steve Webb, coach Massey and team seniors Shelbey Miller, Ashlee Webb, Laenya Maze and Tiffani Shadowens spoke before the crowd.
Webb said the team went to Peoria with winning on their minds and they delivered because they believed in each other.
Massey was introduced by Tripp to a standing ovation and said she was not going to cry, but found herself in tears again as she praised each and every member of the team Sunday later saying the cry was a good cry.
“I told them this wasn’t going to be easy,” Massey said of making it to state, “And it would take hard work and for them to be a team.”
She said it was the teamwork that won the day and her team had heart.
“There wasn’t just one or two people that carried us through, it was a true team effort,” said Massey.
The team was back on their home field Monday as they posed for pictures with their season trophies and state ribbons dressed in their uniforms that for the four departing seniors will likely be their last time to wear the black and gold.
“This team is like my family and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to do it with,” said Shadowens. “Making school history is just amazing and I just love my team. I’m going to miss them very badly.”
Next week the Goreville Gazette will feature a special section to highlight the team’s winning season and congratulate Goreville’s state champions.