By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Trinity Christian, Arlington, Munford and Ripley would be tough opponents for any West Tennessee softball squad.
For the small private school on the Shelby-Tipton border the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels, there is a method to the madness of playing traditional powers. On March 24 TRA Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello was all smiles after a 6-4 victory over league foe Fayette Academy seeing his plan come to fruition.
“It feels great to get a Region victory especially against a rival team like that,” he said. “We’ve been playing pretty good softball. We’ve been playing a lot of really good teams. It’s done nothing but prepare us for this.
“The girls have been in very game,” Sanfratello continued. “We really should be undefeated if you go back and look at the books. We’ve been in every single game. We could have been on the victorious side of things.”
The Lady Rebels were on their way toward victory against the Lady Vikings last week when outfielder Jordyn Thornell smacked a double to drive in three runs in the first inning. TRA was ahead 4-0.
TRA sent senior Ashton Needham to the rubber to try to earn the victory. Early on Needham kept Fayette Academy in check firing pitches into catcher Sally Downing’s glove.
The Lady Vikings were scoreless after two innings. The TRA offense gave Needham some more run support in the third inning when Rachel Whitley and Thornell were on base.
With Katie Diggs at the plate, a pass ball allowed both base runners to cross home plate to make the tally 6-0.
Needham kept her solid performance going striking out 12 Lady Vikings over the seven innings.
“We just want to make plays behind her,” Sanfratello said. “Her past four starts, she’s kept us in every game like she did today. If we can have her compete like that every game, we’re going to win a lot of games. She throws hard and she does that every time she goes out there.”
But Fayette Academy broke its scoreless drought in the fourth inning making the score 6-1. The Lady Vikings cut the deficit in half in the sixth inning with a pair of runs.
Then a double from Fayette Academy in the seventh inning made the score 6-4, leaving two runners on base with one out.
After a trip to the pitching circle form Sanfratello, Needham calm down and struck out the final two batters to earn the league victory.
Sanfratello said he’s proud of the girls for locking down to get the win. But he admitted the girls need to concentrate more and not leave as many runners on base to increase the offensive output.
“It’s just focus right now,” he said. “We’ve been hitting it. That’s the good thing. We’re averaging around 11 hits. If we’re going to get 11 hits we have to score a lot runs. We can’t score 6 or 7 runs and give up 9.
“It’s just focus,” Sanfratello concluded. “Right now I’m just trying to keep them focused. I preach focus, focus, focus every day. We have to focus for seven innings. They did a great job of that in that last inning. They could have tensed up but they focused and got the win.”