By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Last Tuesday was Elimination Day at the District 15-2A Softball Tournament.
Three teams took to the Miles Park field, home of the Millington Lady Trojans. One team would stay alive, while two clubs would have their 2018 season come to an end.
Covington waited on the winner of the Bolivar Central/Millington game. The Lady Trojans matched the Bolivar Central Lady Tigers pitch for pitch. But Bolivar was able to capitalize on a couple of Millington miscues to prevail 3-1.
Trailing 3-0 late in the game, the Lady Trojans mounted a comeback when senior Paige Hall stroked a leadoff single leading to a throwing error. Hall advanced to third base. With teammate Hannah Clifton at the plate, the Lady Tigers fired a pass ball to the backstop. Hall jogged down the line to step on home plate.
Later in that inning, Millington had a chance to cut the deficit to a single run when Clifton tagged up from third base. Clifton arrived to the plate about the same time as the relay throw. Clifton was called out ending the inning.
The defeat finished the varsity careers of Lady Trojans Hall, Olivia Ballard, Keyanna Jones, Kaylee “K” Bone, Emily Dickens and TZ House.
The seniors were the foundation of another season of progress under the guidance of Head Coach Whitney Horton.
Millington finished fourth in the league and battled a tough schedule against squads like Tipton-Rosemark Academy, Collierville and Munford.
Through injuries and lineup changes, the seniors were the vocal leadership and on-the-field foundation. The girls worked with Horton for three seasons maturing in all phases of the game.
The natural athleticism of Hall was utilized in the middle of the order and in the infield. Jones was speed in the outfield and a good ninth or leadoff batter.
In the Class of 2018, three players have endured some tough moments to emerge as undeniable leaders — House, Ballard and Bone.
K Bone worked on her arm to become a dependable pitcher for Millington. Back when the Lady Trojans were a force in Class 3A, pitchers like Abby Mabry and Megan Wingate could dominate an opposing lineup.
Bone has trended the Lady Trojan pitching back to a solid state. The next in line might be sophomore Jamiya Turner. Bone set the bar high after hours of work in the circle and seeking lessons to be a better pitcher for her team.
Team was always put first by Ballard. She would play any spot on the field Horton needed. She was moved all around the batting order eventually leading off things for the Lady Trojans.
Utility player with a solid skill set, Ballard was vital to Millington next step forward.
Forward is a way of describing the voice of TZ House. She was not shy to encourage her teammates or cheer a great play. House would be uplifting with her words and bat. She could hit to all fields with power including a grand slam this season.
To see her development at the plate and in the field was amazing. House was a smart first baseman knowing where to go at all times. And her glove was like Velcro when a ball was thrown her way.
Those three Lady Trojans illustrate what being coachable is all about.
The Lady Trojan seniors have lived up to the cliché of leaving it better than you found it. Millington next step has great promise with players like Rachel Ballard, Maddie Clifton, Ann Howard, Ally Morona and Turner waiting in the wings. And the leader of the 2019 Lady Trojans will be the talented athletic and leader Hannah Clifton.
Horton will have her squad taking another step in the right direction. Don’t be surprised if that’s Regionals by this time next year.
In this year’s district, Covington advanced from the Elimination Day beating Bolivar 10-1. Covington and Ripley reached this week’s Regionals.
By Thomas Sellers Jr.