By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebel Softball players picked up their 2015 schedules earlier this year, most of the players marked down April 3.
That night the Arlington Lady Tigers were scheduled to visit Lady Rebel Field for a showdown. But thunderstorms popped up throughout the day.
Many of the Lady Rebels stayed in contact with Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello to make sure the game was still on for 7 p.m. including TRA pitcher Rachel Whitley.
“She was texting me today saying that she was excited and she wanted to play no matter what,” Sanfratello recalled. “Then we get here and I tell them, ‘These kids really want some. We split with them last year.’ I don’t think they felt like we should have won.”
That speech slowed down Whitley’s excitement for the game and transformed her feelings into concern.
“So she came to me and said she’s a little bit nervous,” Sanfratello said. “I told her to go out there and do your thing. She kept them off balanced and got ahead of them early in the count. She did her stuff late in the end of the count. Tonight might have been the best she’s thrown. The best I’ve seen her throw.”
By the time Arlington left Rosemark, the Lady Rebels were victorious 2-0. Whitley shutdown the Lady Tigers from the plate, and she managed to drive in both runs for the win.
TRA went ahead 1-0 in the first inning with senior Bethany Berger reaching base with a double. Then Whitley drove her home for the early lead.
Whitley added an insurance run in the third inning when she hit a laser between the Arlington third baseman’s legs to score teammate Taylor Beasley.
Then it was time for the Lady Rebel defense to close the deal for win No. 15 out of 16 games. TRA third baseman Katie Diggs fielded several rocket shots for outs. She even snatched a ball out of mid air for an out in the fifth inning.
In the sixth inning Arlington made good connect on Whitley offers. But the deep fly ball found Beasley in centerfield for outs.
Once TRA recorded the three outs in the seventh inning, Sanfratello said all his players were relaxed and happy to pick up the win over a Class 3A powerhouse.
“We can play with anybody,” he said. “We’ve just have to have the right approach at the plate. Of course it all starts in that circle. When we get an outing like that, we can beat anybody.
“Their pitcher is phenomenal,” Sanfratello added. “So that’s a huge win for us. We haven’t really been tested. Out of our 16 games, we’ve probably been tested 6 or 7 times. That’s the best team we’ve played so far. They can field and they can hit. They’re well coached. It’s a huge win for our school. Anytime a school of 200 can beat a school of 2,500, that’s pretty big.”