September 22, 2009 9:11:00 AM
PHEBA -- Cass Tapley was at a loss for words a month ago.
The Hebron Christian fast-pitch softball team had just lost to Heritage Academy 8-1 in a lackluster effort that left Tapley wondering if his players would realize their potential.
Tapley knew his team could hit the ball and that it had ability in the circle, but he wanted to see his team play with a lot more intensity, effort, and focus.
Hebron Christian is living up to Tapley''s wishes at the right time of the season.
Hebron Christian defeated Calhoun Academy 13-3 and Kemper Academy 11-1 to win the rain-shortened Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, Class A, District 3 tournament.
The tournament was originally scheduled for Saturday, but rain pushed the event back to Monday.
More bad weather Monday forced the double-elimination format to be scrapped in favor of a single-elimination event.
Hebron Christian won the tournament as its only undefeated team.
As a result, Hebron Christian will advance to the North Half state tournament Saturday at Bayou Academy in Cleveland.
Tapley said his team struggled through its first eight games of the season before something clicked and it started to play up to its abilities.
"It has been the team I expected us to be since then," Tapley said. "We have really turned it on."
Tapley admitted the doubt was creeping into his mind the longer the team struggled. But he said strong hitting and the correction of problems with Chloe Tapley''s pitching mechanics have helped things come together.
Against Calhoun Academy, Hebron Christian capitalized on 14 walks. Chloe Tapley, Cathryn Moore, and Magen Tapley (double) had hits.
Chloe Tapley struck out nine and didn''t allow a hit in the four-inning game that was called due to the mercy rule.
Against Kemper Academy, Hillary Arnold had three hits, including a double, Magen Tapley had two hits, including a double, and Taylor Lancaster, Chloe Tapley, Cathryn Moore (triple), Brittany Ousley, and Prysilla Skelton also had hits.
Chloe Tapley struck out nine and didn''t allow a hit in the five-inning mercy rule game.
"Our bats really came alive for this game," coach Tapley said. "Everybody moved the ball. Hillary had a great game at the plate with a double and laid down two good bunts. Cathryn and Magen had two back-to-back shots that were probably the hardest hits we have had this year."
Tapley is confident his team will go to the North Half state tournament and have a chance to win.
"I feel like we can play with anybody there," Tapley said. "We''re not going there with the attitude that we''re just happy to be there. We''re going to win it."