August 2, 2010 11:48:00 AM
What a way to kick off the season.
Coming off a victory Friday against Starkville Academy, the Hebron Christian fast-pitch softball team knew Saturday could be a long day at the Winona Christian tournament.
The team''s stay nearly lasted as long as it expected.
After losing their first game in their second game at the double-elimination tournament, the Lady Eagles battled back to win their next three games before eing eliminated with a 5-1 loss to Canton Academy.
Hebron Christian (5-2) would have had to beat Canton Academy twice to complete the title run. As it was, the Lady Eagles played six games in more than 13 hours on a day when temperatures soared into the high 90s.
Hebron Christian coach Cass Tapley was pleased how his players answered the call after beating Calhoun Academy 9-2 in its opener and losing to Canton Academy 10-2 to slip into the losers'' bracket.
" I thought we were a little lackadaisical in the first game, but in the second game we played a good team and kind of fell apart a little bit," Tapley said. "After that, we were lights out until we ran out of gas in the championship game. I am really proud of the way they battled all day long."
The Lady Eagles played their first game at 9:15 a.m. and didn''t end their last game until 11 p.m. Tapley said his players are used to marathons at tournaments like Saturday, even if it means never having more than a one-game break and playing as many as three games in a row.
Still, Hebron Christian kept its focus after the initial loss.
Tori Nichols had three hits in a 14-4 victory against Strider Academy in a game called due to the mercy rule. Jessica Fleming earned the victory, striking out four. Magen Tapley pitched the final inning.
Chloe Tapley earned the victory against Indianola Academy in the next game. She struck out 11 and allowed only one hit in four innings.
Chloe and Magen Tapley and Cathryn Moore each had two hits in an 11-1 victory against Winona Christian in another mercy-rule victory that pushed the team into the championship round. Fleming earned the win, striking out six in three innings.
In the second game against Canton Academy, consecutive errors with two outs in the fourth inning helped Canton Academy extend its lead and cost Hebron Christian an opportunity to force a winner-take-all title game.
Earlier in the day, Fleming struck out five in three innings to lead the team to a 9-2 victory against Calhoun Academy. Chloe Tapley, Moore, and Alaina Hill had doubles.
On Friday, Chloe Tapley struck out 10 in seven innings to help beat Starkville Academy 2-0. Magen Tapley had an RBI and scored in the fourth inning on a double by Moore for the only runs.
Tapley said playing seven games in two days will help give the team the confidence it needs to know it can compete for a Class A title this season.
"We became a better team (Saturday)," Tapley said. "Our seniors have stepped up their game and leadership just like I knew they would. I think our hitting has come around."
Hebron Christian will play at 5 p.m. today at Kirk Academy.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.