Back-to-back-to-back: Lady Falcons headed to Final Four once again

Blair Oaks senior Makenna Kliethermes struck out 16 batters in the Lady Falcons' 10-0 win over Warsaw. (Tom Loeffler)

WARDSVILLE --- We all could have gone home after five batters and about five minutes Saturday, then we wouldn't have gotten our hair all blown out of sorts.

Well, actually, that's not really a concern for all of us.

But on a blustery day, with wind gusts blowing up to 30 mph, it was only fitting that Blair Oaks blew out one last opponent to finish the outstanding home career of Makenna Kliethermes.

The senior righthander tossed a two-hitter and struck out 16 as the Lady Falcons routed the Warsaw Lady Wildcats 10-0 in the Class 2 quarterfinals at the Falcon Athletic Complex, clinching their third consecutive trip to the Final Four and fifth in seven years.

All things Green are blushing with pride, again, because winning never, ever gets old.

"That's very, very true," said Blair Oaks coach Sharon Buschjost, wearing a smile bigger than Wardsville. "I've never been able to pinpoint one that was sweeter than the others, because there's always a new group of girls celebrating it (a trip to the Final Four) for the first time and for others, maybe it's been two or three years.

"They're all special."

No player has been more special than the 5-11 Kliethermes, who's verbally committed to Oregon.

"The amount of growth for Makenna from her freshman to her senior year --- and I'm not just talking balls and strikes --- I'm talking about her as a competitor," Buschjost said. "She's grown physically tough, mentally tough ... I just feel like she's getting stronger and stronger and she's approaching each game with confidence."

That wasn't always the case.

"We had a talk midway through the season," Buschjost continued, "and I told her that it does not have to be just her. She knows she doesn't always have to strike out 16 --- although it's pretty nice --- but if somebody gets a hit, or even hit a ground ball, she sometimes felt like she'd failed early-on in her career.

"Her only goal now, as well as the team's goal, is to bring Blair Oaks softball another state championship."

Warsaw's only hits came on back-to-back bunts in the third inning, but the Lady Wildcats (23-4) only had one other baserunner, a one-out walk in the seventh.

As for Kliethermes' 16 strikeouts ... impressed? Ho-hum ... that's one less than she averages for a seven-inning game.

Her biggest battle Saturday was herself and keeping her emotions in check as she played her final game at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

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