October 5, 2010 7:51:00 AM
Monday marked the end of the line for two local fast-pitch softball programs, but the coaches couldn''t have been prouder of the how their teams fared.
Oak Hill Academy lost to Bowling Green, La., 4-2 in a losers'' bracket game Monday at the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA State Tournament, while Hebron Christian defeated Franklin Academy (La.) 15-7 and lost to Sylva Bay Academy 8-1.
And while the Lady Raiders (15-14) and the Lady Eagles (27-13) came up short of their goals of winning state titles, coaches Marion Bratton and Cass Tapley praised the tenacity and fortitude of their players.
"We raised our level of play and played with everybody in the state," Bratton said. "We lost 5-4 (to Silliman Institute) to the No. 1 team in the (South half of the) state and beat the No. 3 team in the state (Wilkinson County 17-13 in 10 innings) in one of the best ballgames in my whole career in terms of effort."
Mamie Allen took the loss Monday. She struck out six and allowed four hits and two earned run. An infield error (dropped popup) in the fourth inning helped Bowling Green, La., score two runs to take the lead for good.
Bratton said his team had the tying runs on base in the top of the sixth inning. Unfortunately, the center fielder made a shoestring catch on a sinking line drive by Kim Kelly that would have scored two runs.
Bratton said the Lady Raiders overcame a host of injuries, including one to senior Paige Dawkins'' hand that prevented her from playing in the field. He said the team also battled even though Allen, Maegan Ellis, Kelly, and Anna Lummus weren''t 100 percent.
Bratton said the team will miss the leadership displayed by seniors Dawkins, Mary Helon Hays, Anne Stevens, and Abby Falkner, and hopes the state tournament appearance will provide a boost to the program for next season.
"Somebody was always there to fill in the void," said Bratton, whose team finishes fifth overall. "The girls peaked at the right time and probably grew closer. I wished it would have happened in the middle of the year, but the goal of every coach is for the players to play the best they possibly can and to finish the season a lot better than they were when they started. They got tougher and learned to play hurt and were able to pull together and still get the job done. I am proud of them."
Tapley''s team, which took third, used a 12-run, 11-hit fifth inning to overcome Franklin Academy. Beverly Blake, Magen Tapley, and Tori Nichols each had two hits in the inning. Nichols ended the scoring with a two-run home run over the right-center field fence.
Blake led the way with three hits, while Alaina Hill (three RBIs), Chloe Tapley, Cathryn Moore, Magen Tapley (four RBIs), Jessica Fleming (two RBIs), and Brittany Ousley each had two hits.
Chloe Tapley struck out seven and allowed two hits in four innings to get the victory. Fleming pitched the final inning.
The second loss of the tournament to Sylva Bay forced Hebron Christian to take third in its first trip to the state tournament.
"We moved the ball on offense and had some hard hits but could never string together the hits close enough to drive in the runs," Tapley said. "We only had two strikeouts, but in all those other at-bats we only had four hits. That tells you the ball was finding a fielder and they were making the plays."
Chloe Tapley, who took the loss, had two hits, while Moore had the lone RBI.
"They battled until the end of the second game," Tapley said. "I am as proud of them as I could be if they would have won it."
Tapley said Magen Tapley was scheduled for a visit to the orthodontist after she was hit in the face with a ball Saturday. He said the blow knocked out her permanent retainer and bent her teeth back. Despite the injury, Tapley returned to the field Saturday and was back at it Monday.
Although Magen Tapley, who played shortstop, is one of seven seniors who will graduate, coach Tapley feels the program will learn a lot from the state tournament.
"I was proud of how hard they played and how much they battled and got stronger as the season went on," Tapley said. "We''re going to miss those seniors. It has been an honor to coach them."
Chloe and Magen Tapley and Moore were named to the all-tournament team.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.