The Arlington softball team started Friday's district final series with an error.
“That kind of set the tempo for the day,” coach Janelle Lorsch said.
The host Malcolm Clippers went on to win back-to-back, 12-0 and 16-5, games to advance to the Class C State Championships in Hastings. The Eagles, for the first time since 2016, did not. They, instead, were the C-7 District runner-up, finishing the season 15-13 overall.
“I'm very pleased,” Lorsch said despite defeat.
An inexperienced AHS lineup with just two seniors this fall — Kylee Bruning and Lilly Stonehocker — reached their coach's annual goal, reaching the district final round. The Eagles gave themselves a shot, but couldn't quite punch their school's sixth state qualification.
“Malcolm is very good, yes,” Lorsch confirmed. Every Clipper in the lineup can hit, she added, and they each execute their team's plan to play small ball.
The host team jumped out to 6-0 and 11-1 leads through Saturday's first innings, forcing AHS into comeback mode. While Bruning logged the Eagles' lone hit during the three-inning first game, Hannah Stahlecker and Hailey Brenn notched homers during the second to cap the season.
While both Arlington sluggers will return next fall, Friday's defeat was the end of both Bruning and Stonehocker's prep careers. Lorsch said both will be missed.
Stonehocker, the coach said, brought her cheer team background to the dugout, providing good communication skills.
Bruning, meanwhile, was an all-state level standout who played where the Eagles needed her. She was an outfielder to start her high school career, turned into a exceptional catcher and moved to shortstop as a senior because its what AHS needed.
“It will be tough to replace her,” the senior's coach said.
Lorsch compared Bruning to past standouts Alex Boulton, who led her AHS team to its 2012 state title, and Taylor Wakefield, who was an all-stater herself.
While those seniors move on, Lorsch hopes her young team took in lessons only a 15-13 and district final season provides.
“Some nights we win, but every night we should learn something,” the coach said.
Even as her team said its goodbyes to the fall during the postseason huddle, Lorsch admitted she took a moment to comment on Malcolm's solid base running. Its something the Eagles learn from as they prepare to chase the state tourney again in a year's time.