By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MURFREESBORO – The 2018 Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebel Softball team will be added to the wall in the school’s gymnasium.
Several stories will be told about the 27-11 squad and Division II-A West Region champions. Tales will be shared of the historic stats from senior pitcher Rachel Whitley. People will reminisce about her classmate Shelby Clifton’s powerful hits and mythical homers.
Then those who were close to the 2018 team will talk about the third senior. The ‘Bad Cop’ of the trio, Emily Fisher made her impact on the field and in foul territory.
Before the Lady Rebels reached last week’s Division II-A State Softball Tournament championship against the Silverdale Lady Seahawks, it was a speech by Fisher on May 19 that inspired TRA.
“I told them, ‘Last season we won the first game,’” Fisher recalled. “‘But we have to keep our heads in it because they came back to beat us in the second game.’ We can’t just come out here and act like we’ve got it in the bag. We’ve got to work for it.”
The Lady Rebels beat King’s Academy 5-3 and 4-2 in the Division II-A Sectional Series to earn a spot in Murfreesboro. Once again the vocal leadership of Fisher played a vital part in TRA’s success.
When the Lady Rebels arrived to Middle Tennessee, the bats were hot beating Silverdale 9-2 and the Knoxville Grace Christian Academy 9-8 to advance to the championship game.
TRA had two chances to secure the school’s third softball title. The Lady Seahawks survived out of the losers’ bracket to reach the championship. Silverdale fought off elimination last Thursday winning 3-1.
Then in the winner-take-all game Friday morning, the Lady Seahawks outlasted TRA 6-4 to win the championship.
“Offensively, we just didn’t do what we needed to do,” TRA Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello acknowledged. “We put up 18 runs in the first two games and 4 in the last two. When you don’t make adjustments you can’t expect to do too much offensively. We hit too many balls in the air. The better team won today.”
Sanfratello said he knew his team was good enough to be champions best of this senior trio.
“They’re going to be missed big time,” he said. “They mean so much to this program. If there is an offense, a defense or pitching category to have a record in, those three girls have them.
“What they mean to the program in that aspect is immeasurable,” Sanfratello continued. “What they mean to our school and community is more than that. They are three beautiful and wonderful young ladies who are going to go on to do wonderful things.”
Fisher said the Class of 2018 has already accomplished some wonderful things guiding the youthful Lady Rebels to the State title game.
“It was a team effort to get to this point,” she said. “We all played as a team, as a family. We all have to want it. I think we wanted it but it just didn’t show out these last two games.”
Fisher admitted her role on the team was a dirty job somebody had to do.
“I’m not the favorite because I am the one who always yells,” she acknowledged. “I think that’s what needs to be done. Somebody has to step up and be the person who yells, be the person nobody wants to be.
“I think that plays a big part because if Meredith misses a ball in left?” Fisher continued. “I’ll go, ‘You’ve got to have that Mo.’ that pushes her to be better and want to be better the next time.”
Fisher said she hopes there is a next team for her underclassmen teammates on the big stage in Murfreesboro.
“I hope that they learn that you’ve got to want it more than you want anything else,” she said. “I hope they take this as a will and a goal for next year. I hope they’ll all be leaders and work for it. You’ve got to really want it.”
Sanfratello said he wants his returning players to learn from their seniors and from the feeling of having the championship slip away.
“I hope they all just take this in and realize that they can play,” he concluded. “I hope they get out of this, ‘Man, we had it. We were right there.’ Just figure out what kind of mistakes we made and what adjustments we need the next time to maybe be on the other side of the field.”
The 2018 Lady Rebels are Addey Grace Beasley, Abby West, Sarah Allyn Thornell, Emily West, Charli Rice, Rachel Whitley, Emily Fisher, Jordan Allen, Meredith Owen, Sydney Downing, Lexie Williams, Brooklyn Rose, Shelby Clifton, Addy White and Ali Naumann.
By Thomas Sellers Jr.