SOUTH WHITLEY — Whitko’s softball team defended its regional title last week, winning on the Lady Wildcats’ home field, before falling in semi-state action in Lakeville Saturday.

Whitko beat Western Boone in a close regional game, 3-2.

The game was scoreless until the fourth inning, when the Lady Wildcats put one run on the board. Whitko scored two more runs in the fifth inning to take a 3-0 lead.

“We were hitting, but we finally got one that dropped so we could score,” head coach Michele Garr said.

In the sixth and seventh innings, Western Boone scored one run apiece to challenge the Lady Wildcats, who held on for the win.

Pitcher Ellie Snep didn’t fall under the pressure, especially in the final inning when Western Boone put some runners on base.

“She’s got nerves of steel,” Garr said. “She’s played enough ball that she’s really good about calming herself down and her teammates talk to her too.”

Snep, among many other softball players in Whitley County, plays on a travel ball team. It all boils down to one thing: “I love pitching,” she said.

The pressure in the regional game wasn’t the first time Snep has faced difficult situations.

“We always do that to ourselves,” Snep said. “I know we’ll bounce back. I have a great defense behind me. I just have to believe in our team. They have my back and they show me that every game.”

Garr has instilled an encouraging environment, where players lift each other up when mistakes are made, rather than blaming.

“We don’t believe in that (blaming). We squashed that. It’s not just one person’s fault if we lose. If we win, it’s not just one person,” Garr said.

Even the team’s junior varsity squad should receive some credit for the team’s success, Garr says.

“The JV team has been out there helping us get prepared as well,” Garr said.

Whitko Athletic Director Josh Mohr was glad the Lady Wildcats got to host the regional. Western Boone made a two-hour, 40 minute trip to South Whitley.

“It’s nice to show off our field, the school and what our kids do,” Mohr said.

Mohr is proud of the team’s character and chemistry.

“They work extremely hard and take no credit for themselves,” Mohr said.

Fans and parents spent two days sprucing up the field for the influx of visitors. The effort was well worth it, as there was standing room only at the game.

“I can’t tell you how awesome our parents and fans are,” Garr said.

The Cleveland Township Fire Department also enjoyed the game being close-by, as they parked a fire truck just outside the fence and sat on top to watch the game — except when they were briefly called away on a run.

“They’re the greatest group of guys,” Garr said.

The fire department enjoys parading winning teams through South Whitley after big wins, such as sectional and regional championships.

The Lady Wildcats’ season came to an end Saturday when they fell to Tipton, 1-0, at LaVille High School in game one of semi-state action.

Snep once again led the Lady Wildcats on the mound, striking out five and giving up only two hits. Emmy Duggins and Makayla Berg both got on base with walks and were the Lady Wildcats’ lone baserunners.

Whitko ended the season with a 21-8 record.