By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Ahead 14-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning Saturday afternoon, it was apparent the Brighton Lady Cardinals were heading to their first Class 3A State Softball Tournament since 2010.
To secure their spot and eliminate the Houston Lady Mustangs in the Sub-State contest, the clinching moment came down to Brighton’s only senior – Seeley Layne.
Known for her pitching over the years, Layne had a chance to win the game in mercy rule fashion.
With a ground ball toward the third base side, Layne raced down toward first base. As she reached safely, the final run needed crossed home and the Lady Cardinals were heading to Murfreesboro for this week’s State Tournament.
Layne was the hero once again as her teammates surrounded her at first base to celebrate the moment.
“It feels so good and especially with it being my senior year,” she said. “It’s even more special for me. I get to go out with a bang going to State.
“The last play, it worked,” she added. “I swung at that ball that was in the ground. So I was like, ‘I just want to hit the ball.’ I wanted to hit it to the opposite side so the run could score. I’m just glad I hit and I just tried to run to first as fast as I could. So I’m just glad it worked out.”
With the dominating 15-0 win over the Houston Lady Mustangs, Head Coach Robin Jacob’s Lady Cardinals have earned a spot in the final eight.
“Whoever we got today was going to get both barrels,” Jacobs said. “They were going to get our best. It did bother them a lot. It bothered Seeley. It bothered my juniors. We didn’t get to finish that game. We felt we could have won. If it hadn’t been 4-3 with a batter on base. We felt we had a chance. We’re just proud we had a chance to get back and be one of the Elite Eight teams again.”
Back in 2010, All-State pitcher Leanna Coulston sparked her Brighton team to State. In similar fashion, Seeley Layne was the leader in the pitching circle for the 2016 squad.
Layne won her 26th game of the season and 63rd in her career striking out several Houston batters. Layne’s win puts her one behind Coultson’s all-time school record.
Brighton had offense supplied by Layne as well when she drove in the first run of the contest in the first inning. Then her teammate Marisa Moss singled to drive in a run to make the score 2-0.
The Lady Cardinals led 5-0 after one inning.
Brighton scored 7 runs in the second inning starting with a Haley Rider single. The final two runs of the frame came courtesy of Ta’mya Johnson driving in a pair of runners with a single.
In the fourth inning Brighton’s 12-0 advantage put them three runs away from ending the game by the mercy rule.
Hannah Benard struck a big blow with a two-run double. Moments later with a runner on third, Layne came to the plate with a chance to secure her team a spot in State.
With a ground ball and reaching first base safely, Layne delivered and the Lady Cardinals were heading to Murfreesboro.
“I’m not worried about it,” Jacobs said moments after the win. “I’m just going to enjoy it. You don’t know how many times you’re going to get a chance to enjoy it.”
Jacobs said his 2016 Lady Cardinals have enjoyed the journey back to State with a genuine love for one another.
“These guys have seem to bond pretty good,” he said. “Today they were happy for each other. Vada (Butler) hasn’t had a chance to play a lot. She made a great play today and they were cheering for her. They are just happy for each other.”
Underclassmen like Moss said they are looking forward to State and making some noise among the final eight.
“We want to play a bunch of games and we want to win,” she said. “This is so exciting.”
Jacobs is happy for all his player. But the accomplishment of reaching holds a special place for one of his players.
“Seeley grew into it,” he said. “We talked about our team being built around her last year. The game happened like it did today at the end. This does validate her. The way she pitched, the way she progressed.
“We’ve played 38 games and she’s pitched 35 of them,” Jacobs concluded. “So it’s validation for her. She’s won 26. She’s been our rock.”