By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Since 2011, the University School of Jackson vs. Tipton-Rosemark Academy softball games have settled regular-season, Regional and State championships.
With the USJ Lady Bruins and TRA Lady Rebels trading blows, the week of April 20 was anticipated on both campus like the May 2 Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao clash.
On April 21, USJ/TRA I went to the Lady Bruins 11-2. The Lady Rebels didn’t have to wait too long for a rematch with USJ traveling Rebel Field last Thursday.
This time the match went to the final round with the Lady Bruins prevailing 2-1.
“It’s a complete 180 from the softball — I don’t know if you can call it softball what we did the other night,” TRA Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello said. “We played well enough to win tonight. Rachel (Whitley), every time she goes out there she puts us in a position to win. It’s just a couple of little mistakes, base running, fielding.
“We’re not focused for the entire first pitch until the last,” he continued. “I stress focus, focus, focus. That’s the only way you’re going to beat us, if we don’t stay focus in those entire areas. It’s hard to beat us if we stay focused. And tonight we just didn’t stay focus.”
USJ jumped ahead 2-0 with a pair of runs in the third inning. TRA’s bats were silent until the fourth inning.
Lady Rebel Taylor Beasley got the frame started with a walk. After a Bethany Berger sacrifice bunt, Whitley used her bat to smack a double to score Beasley to make the score 2-1.
The Lady Rebels had to use defense to keep the deficit at one over the next few innings. The combination of third baseman Katie Diggs and first baseman Emily Fisher kept USJ scoreless in the sixth inning.
Diggs fielded two lasers down the left field line. The first ball she threw over toward first low and outside with Fisher being about to split and retrieve the ball with an outstretch glove for out No. 1.
The second out came when Diggs snatched up another rock shot toward third base. The ball sailed high causing Fisher to leap to get the ball. She landed on the bag in time for out No. 2.
The Lady Bruins’ third out came when a pop-out to Fisher. Despite solid defense from the Lady Rebels around the field, the offense couldn’t ignite in the sixth or seventh innings.
“That’s what I told them, ‘Last year she pretty much dominated us the first three games,’” Sanfratello concluded. “Not until the Regional Tournament we started taking good swings and hitting the ball hard and making things happen. It’s going to be like this for the next two to three weeks. We’re going to have to battle. It’s not going to get any easier.”