Tournament title slips away in late inning rally
Errors and lack of focus an issue in 11-5 loss to Highland
First Baseman Brea Johnson was part of the Lady Indians late inning comeback, unfortunately for Elsberry, Highland used a comeback of their own to capture the Elsberry Tournament Championship on Saturday.
This year’s group of Seniors for the Lady Indians Softball team had the opportunity to do something new on Saturday…play in their own tournament.
For the past three years Mother Nature has made it impossible for Elsberry to host their annual tournament, however this year, with blue skies and temperatures in the 70’s the Khoury League park was full of spectators watching quality softball all day long.
Not only was it special to be able to play in this tournament the home team Lady Indians secured the first seed and held high hopes for a title.
“This was the first time they [Seniors] had ever gotten to play in our tournament, so they were on a mission of sorts,” said Head Coach Trudy Bull. “It’s always great to get to play in front of your home crowd.”
(8) Louisiana 0
(1) Elsberry 2
The Lady Indians started their run to the championship game with a 2-0 victory over Louisiana early Saturday morning.
The early start time, which showed offensively and the Lady Indians lack of focus is something Coach Bull said is tough to overcome.
“In the 15 years I have been coaching I have never had a team come out ready to play the first game of the day,” said Coach Bull. “Kids do much better when they stick to their routine. That being said, the lack of focus cut down on our run production.”
According to Coach Bull you also can’t take anything away from the Lady Bulldogs pitcher.
“Louisiana has a descent pitcher and you have to be ready to hit when you step in the box. We just weren’t ready,” said Coach Bull.
(4) Kennedy 5
(1) Elsberry 8
Elsberry jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the second game against Kennedy, scoring a run each in the first three innings.
However, mental mistakes and three straight errors followed by a double and single would see Kennedy with a 5-3 lead after four innings.
With all the games in the tournament (except championship game) being a time limit contest, Elsberry knew that would need to respond in their bottom half of the fourth inning.
“All I can say is we were very fortunate to come out with a win because when you give a team extra outs it is very hard to win,” said Coach Bull.
Luckily for the Lady Indians the error bug bit the Kennedy fielders and pitchers just as hard. Elsberry loaded the bases after an error and intentional walk to their clean-up hitter Brittni Hagemeier. Hagemier had been crushing the ball all day and had reached base earlier on a double that went over the centerfielder’s head, so Kennedy’s coach wasn’t taking any chances.
That meant the number five hitter Kaity Grills would get the chance to play hero. Grills, who hadn’t had a hit all day, laced a single up the middle scoring two runs, tying the game at five apiece. Elsberry plated three more and held on for the 8-5 victory.
“Huge mistake walking Brittni to get to Kaity but that is how good the middle of our line up is, what do you do?” said Coach Bull. “Kaity is a great hitter and just because she hadn’t had a hit at that point in the game doesn’t mean you underestimate her. Guess the coach hadn’t done his homework.”
(2) Highland 11
(1) Elsberry 5
For the first five innings the Championship game against Highland it was like watching a heavyweight fight, both teams looking for the knockout, but neither team going down.
Pitcher Becca Almus, who started all three tournament games, found herself pitching out of numerous scoring threats from Highland.
“The kid has guts. I tried to sit her one game and she wanted no part of it. She does a good job for us and our defense just let her down,” said Coach Bull.
That defense seen a late inning lead turn into an 11-5 blowout and a chance at the Championship fade away.
“I think Becca may have been a little tired, but the rest of the team should have been fine. It was a game that we could have and should have won,” said Coach Bull “They [Highland] are an aggressive hitting team, but if we don’t give them extra outs with our numerous errors, we win the game. It’s that simple, we have to go out and make the plays. We didn’t.”
Despite the loss, Coach Bull hopes this can be a learning experience and prepare them for next Saturday’s Louisiana Tournament.
“I am disappointed in the way we finished the tournament, but a second place finish isn’t too shabby. I hope the girls see how important it is to come out ready to play every game,” said Coach Bull. “As far as next weekend, we have Louisiana in the first game, again. Our intensity needs to be higher and we need to put them away earlier instead of letting them hang around. Our day up there could be much the same as this weekend was.”
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