Up until last Monday, the Jackson softball team had not won a district championship this century, with the Indians last coming in 1999. All of that changed when Jackson beat Lindbergh by six runs at 10-4 to break the program’s 24-year drought of winning a district title.
The Indians had chance to further their historic season and make the state final four for the first time in school history on Saturday, but they ended up falling just two runs shy of doing so. Jackson ended its 2023 campaign with a 3-1 loss to Francis Howell in the Class 5 state quarterfinals in the City Park.
Despite coming up short of qualifying for state, Indians head coach Shawn Wilding couldn’t be more proud of his crop of players that won their first-ever district championship and produced the most single-season wins (33) in program history.
“This program has been blessed with some great talent over the years that have gone on to play at the next level,” Coach Wilding said. “These girls did it. They’re very special to me, and it’s very special to them.
“They got a taste of what it’s about. When I was coaching at Silex, winning districts and going further beyond was in our blood, so I’ve been trying to instill that here. It’s here now — 33-5 [overall] is no joke. We were just a step behind and little things went wrong — we didn’t make those mistakes all year long.”
Even though Jackson fell to Francis Howell, sophomore pitcher Ashlyn Dawes did not allow a single earned run on the rubber as she held the Vikings to four hits and had three strikeouts.
Versus Lindbergh for the district championship, Dawes recorded 10 strikeouts and only allowed three earned runs through seven innings. Ashlyn finishes her first season as the Indians ace pitcher with a record of 12-4 while leading Jackson in both strikeouts (124) and earned run average (1.63).
“She threw awesome [in the quarterfinals] — she had zero runs and the score should’ve been 1-0 — we should’ve won,” Coach Wilding said. “She has ice in her veins, and she’s going to get even better. The other eight have to pick her up because she did her job — she can’t do both of them.”
Also proving to be vital in the district title game was none other than Missouri’s single-season leader in stolen bases (85) senior right fielder Kaiden Weisbrod. She, of course, led the game in stolen bases with three while also having scored three runs and recorded two hits.
In the state quarterfinal, Weisbrod failed to reach home plate but did get off one hit and tied for a game-high two stolen bases with freshman Danica Dewrock, who scored Jackson’s lone run off an error at third base.
Another Indian to come up big in the district championship-win was Jackson junior Kimmora Carothers, who gave her team a 5-1 lead in the first inning after a 2-run home run. Lindbergh answered with a 2-run bomb of its own in the second, but senior Kam Tucker hit a 2-run single for Jackson to take a marginal lead in the bottom of the inning.
Even though she didn’t hit a homer like Carothers, Indians senior Zoe Flath drove in a game-high three runs batted in versus the Flyers, while junior Morgan Conklin tied Weisbrod for a game-high three runs off two hits.
In the quaterfinals, not only did Francis Howell’s senior pitcher Lorin Boutte, who is committed to play at Miami Ohio strike out 12 Indians, but the Vikings defense as a whole stranded seven Jackson runners on base throughout the game.
The Indians will graduate not one but four future college softball players in Weisbrod (D-II Southwest Baptist), Flath (NAIA Missouri Baptist), Tucker (Mineral Area College) and Ella Mangles (MAC).
“That’s our staple,” Coach Wilding said. “Only one of our seniors isn’t playing in college. Zoe has been there since 2020 when we lost to Notre Dame in the championship — she’s the anchor. Kam is a tremendous first baseman — all-region type player. Kaiden Weisbrod is first team all-state — she’s amazing.”
While the Indians are losing quite the senior class, Jackson still returns key players like its ace pitcher Dawes, Conklin, Carothers, juniors Jaylie Walther and Josie Sauerbrunn and sophomore Maddie Stelling. The Indians also have plenty of freshman from this season who will hope to fill roles next fall.
“The future is golden — I’ve got five players ready to step in and fill those voids,” Coach Wilding said. “We’re loaded still [next year] and we’ll be batting .409 as a team coming in. We’re in great shape, just gotta have that grit and win it out.”