Young Bristol team eliminated

Tribune Chronicle / Brian Yauger Bristol’s Alayna Sines makes a pitch Thursday against Hillsdale.

AKRON — The Bristol Panthers’ softball season came to an end Thursday in a 7-1 loss to Jeromesville Hillsdale in a Division IV Akron Regional semifinal at Firestone Stadium.

“We did not play our best game today,” Bristol coach Alisha Kugler said. “Defense was a small part, our bats didn’t come alive like they usually do. They say offense wins games, but defense wins championships. We started off poorly with a couple of defensive errors, and it just spiraled from there.”

Hillsdale hit a two-run homer in the first inning which set the tone for the rest of the game. They added three more in the third to take a 5-0 lead.

“I don’t know if it was nerves being at this stadium or what it was,” Kugler said. “I wish I could have done something to better mentally prepare them to be ready to be here.”

In the final at-bat of her outstanding career with Bristol, Kendyl Switzer blasted a home run that gave the Panthers their only run of the game.

Tribune Chronicle / Brian Yauger Kendyl Switzer runs toward home in her final game with the Panthers. Switzer ended the game 3-for-3 with a home run.

Switzer finished the game going a perfect three-of-three at the plate, and hit a double along with her home run.

Switzer is one of three important faces the Panthers are losing, along with her sister, Kayla, and Emily Bush, but Bristol has lots of younger talent ready to fill in those shoes.

“I’m losing the left side of my infield with Bush and Kendyl and I’m losing my center fielder (Kayla Switzer),” Kugler said. “Those are pretty big holes to fill and big bats to fill in the lineup too. I think our younger kids look promising, though. I don’t know what we have coming up from eighth grade, but I know that I have kids that are ready to fill those shoes”

Despite the heartbreaking loss to end the season, Kugler is proud of the way her team played all year.

“I think we had a pretty successful year,” Kugler said. “We beat Elyria on their home field and we had close games with other ranked opponents, Poland and Ursuline. Even though those were losses we played well. I’m just gonna miss our seniors and the younger kids have some big shoes to fill.”

The Panthers end the season at 19-5, and despite the successes of the year and a solid crop of youth, saying goodbye to seniors is always hard.

“This one’s gonna hurt for a little bit, but we’ll move on,” Kugler said. “It’s hard to move on with these kids right here and I just feel bad that we couldn’t get a win for them.”