By Thomas Sellers Jr.
After beating the Lady Eagles up in Jackson, TRA still made some adjustments to increase its chances of winning April 16 at Lady Rebel Field.
“Before the game we talked about putting the ball into play,” TRA infielder Emily West said. “We talked about laying off the rise ball and that’s exactly what we did. We made them make mistakes.”
The Lady Rebels got enough runs in the third inning, another solid Charli Rice pitching performance and timely defense to win 7-3 and clinch the district championship.
“This is always step No. 1 if you can get that regular-season district championship,” TRA Head Coach Johnie Sanfrantello said. “We don’t play a district tournament. We jump right into the Regional Tournament. Seeding is so important in that. So you want to be that one seed mainly for that second round match-up.”
But before TRA gets to May, the Lady Rebels want to take a game-by-game approach to get back to the Division II-A State championship game. The 2018 season ended for the Lady Rebels dropping two games to Silverdale in the title series.
Since that day in Murfreesboro, Sanfrantello and his girls have grown closer.
“This is the best bond of a team we’ve had since I was a freshman,” Lady Rebel Meredith “Mo” Owens said. “We’re all best friends. This is the closest we’ve ever been. There’s no drama at all. We’re all just having fun all the time. And that’s what makes us go better. We’re just always having fun no matter if we’re down or up. It’s about having fun.”
The offensive fun started for TRA against JCS in the third inning after trailing 2-1. The Lady Rebels had bases loaded with Kayla Clement, Rice and Abby West all reaching base.
Emily West tied the game at 2-2 smacking a single. Then it was time to totally swing the momentum with Mo at the plate. The junior outfielder stepped into the batter’s box with an approach.
“SanFran told me to hit it in the green,” she recalled. “Then she pitched one right down the middle. I was like, ‘This is it.’ I hit and did what I was supposed to do.”
Owens crushed a double to the outfield driving in a pair of Lady Rebels making the score 4-2. TRA went ahead 7-2 later in the frame when Myah Wright singled in her teammates.
“Last time we played them, (Charli) didn’t have her best game,” Sanfrantello said. “She still had 8 strikeouts. Tonight she only had 5. I keep telling her all the time, ‘Fly ball outs and ground ball outs are just as good as strikeouts. I know they’re not as pretty, but they work the same.’
“If we can get 21 outs, I don’t care how they get them,” he added. “I told them before the game, ‘When we’re facing good pitching, the team who makes the mistakes defensively is going to be the team that loses.’ That held true two games in a row.”
Now the Lady Rebels are on a mission to sharpen up their game and prepare for a run in May. Sanfrantello said he is glad to see the bond getting stronger and his girls focused on each goal.
“It’s that winning mentality of postseason play,” he concluded. “Going into the postseason, you want to get hot at the right time. It’s one of those situation that’s what you want.”