By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ARLINGTON — Millington Lady Trojans Head Softball Coach Rick Hearn faced an unfamiliar challenge coming into the 2013 season.
The veteran Skipper knew back in March he would have to navigate the schedule and the District 14-3A foes with new and inexperienced pitching. Millington managed to win seven games and earn a No. 4 seed in the 2013 District 14-3A Softball Tournament.
The Lady Trojans entered tournament play May 7 with a 2-1 record. Needing a win over the Bartlett Lady Panthers to keep their season alive, Millington jumped out to a 2-0 lead. But running out of strong arms lead to a 17-2 defeat for the Lady Trojans.
“We really don’t have any pitching experience and it showed tonight,” Hearn said. “Ally Hall has gotten better and Rebecca Smart was tired. You pitched a lot yesterday just to try to get us to this game.
“It’s hard to play defense out there with all the walks and hit batters,” he added. “Then a pop up or two will drop, those should be routine plays.”
It was Bartlett making the routine plays and the Lady Trojans’ errors adding up that led to the Lady Panthers pulling away in the loser’s bracket game.
In the early moments of the contest it appeared Millington was going to be competitive and possibly advance. Lady Trojan junior slugger Ariel Trice got Millington on the board in the first inning with an RBI single.
Then Smart drove a pitch to the outfield for a base hit to score Trice. The Lady Trojans were ahead 2-0.
But Bartlett bounced back with five runs in its half of the first on just one hit.
The Lady Panthers had their biggest inning in the second with nine runs. There was only one run-producing hit in that rally.
“We do have a few bright spots to look forward to,” Hearn said. “We have some capable hitters with a couple of slappers and we had some right-handed power hitters. We scored runs against Bartlett, Bolton and Arlington this year.
“It’s not like were were getting shut out a lot,” he added. But when you get behind with those 5-run innings, it takes aways what you can do on offense.”
Trailing 14-2 entering the second inning, slappers like seniors Pauline Pagulayan and Casey Tarwater were neutralized. And Hearn had to make four pitching changes throughout the contest and that forced him to move players around the field of play.
Bartlett added three more runs to reach the mercy rule and the Lady Panthers advance in the loser’s bracket final. The end of the 2013 season meant Hearn had to start preparing for 2014.
When Hearn arrived in Millington more than a decade ago he built the Lady Trojans into a District 14-3A power. Millington reached several Regionals winning the 2005 district tournament. That season the Lady Trojans reached Sub-State.
Over the years powerful pitching from players like Abby Mabry, Brittney Davis, Megan Wingate and April Lewis kept the Lady Trojans near the top of the league. And the tradition of sluggers like the Emily and Lauren Hearn, Heidi Molder, Jasmine Scudder, Jana Mergel and Melissa McGovern has been kept alive by some of the current group of Lady Trojans.
Hearn noted the 2013 Lady Trojans were held together by the senior class of Katlyn Dupree, Brandi Graves, Laura Compton, Pauline Pagulayan, Rebecca Smart and Casey Tarwater.
Tarwater has played catcher for three years for Millington. She was the glue who held the young pitching staff together, was the voice of the team and was a leader by example. Hearn said she will be hard to replace.
“Ally Hall is a capable pitcher,” he said. “She’s going to get some pitching lessons and play some summer ball. I’m pleased with Molly Molino’s outfield play. Katie (Dupree) looked good in the middle infield area. And Ariel and Daiji (Brunson) swung the bats well this year. We’ve got to have a catcher. We lost a three-year starter in Casey.”
When summarizing the 2013 season after a 7-9 record, Hearn said it was the first step toward getting back to the glory days of Lady Trojan Softball.
“It definitely was a tough season with all the rain, and inconsistent play,” he concluded. “But we still have some things to work on and develop. At least Ally got her feet wet this year. It won’t be a shock to her next year to go out and pitch high school ball. She pitched 45 to 50 innings this year out of necessity.”