It”s not that the pitch was high. It just wasn”t high enough.
Carla Avant reached down with her bat to get under D.J. Sanders” riseball in the sixth inning, sending it over the left-center field fence to give Lake Cormorant a lead it didn”t surrender in final game of a best-of-three fast-pitch softball series Saturday afternoon against New Hope High School.
“I don”t think I got it to rise too much,” Sanders said later.
Avant then added one final moment to the second-round game. In the seventh, she doubled to center, driving in the final run in a 4-2 victory.
And with the defeat, New Hope”s seniors — Anna Holley and sisters Brittany and Brandi Brantley, members of the school”s four consecutive slow-pitch state championship teams — lost their final opportunity to leave high school with a fast-pitch title.
Winning the championship was a goal, so it”s no surprise that when Holley”s pop out marked the final out, all of the Lady Trojans were shaken with emotion.
“We all did so much,” said Sanders, a freshman. “You don”t think the JV girls in the dugout put in as much (work) as the varsity girls, but we all put in everything, and when we lose it hurts because we put in so much. We”ve all dedicated our time.”
In the loss, Lauren Holifield went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a single. Brittany Brantley had the other hit.
“We have an amazing senior class,” New Hope coach Tabitha Beard said after sharing several emotional minutes with her players in left field. “I hate it for them. I hate it for them more than anything. I felt more than anything this was their year.”
Beard warned her players during their first playoff series against Pearl how a roller-coaster offense could be a problem. In the end, she was right, watching her players fail to earn the hits that other times came so easily.
Perhaps the only thing worse than losing the series 2-1 was watching — and hearing — Lake Cormorant players and fans celebrate for more than 30 minutes. New Hope players were still sitting in and around the home dugout when the Lady Gators departed the diamond.
“It was real hard,” said Holley, who will play soccer and softball at Itawamba Community College next season. “As you see, you still see, we still haven”t left. It”s been, what an hour? It”s hard to leave.”
With the season, and for some, their careers, over, New Hope players weren”t ready to accept there would be no spring trophy to add to the extensive fall collection.
“I think the seniors this year have been extremely close to the underclassmen,” Holley said. “It”s just as hard for them as it is for us, and it”s our last game.”
In the end, New Hope struggled to get hits when it needed them the most. The Lady Trojans compiled just four hits in Game 3, the same number it had in a 6-2 loss in Game 1. Problem was, players either hit well in the first game or the third, but not both.
Hours earlier, the Lady Trojans beat Lake Cormorant 13-6, avenging a the Game 1 loss and forcing a Game 3.
New Hope had 16 hits in the second game, led by Jordan Johnson”s three hits. Holifield also doubled and tripled.
In the first game, Sanders had two doubles, and Johnson”s RBI triple in the seventh gave New Hope, trailing 6-0, its first and only runs of the game.
The Lady Trojans didn”t know this would be an omen of what would occur in the final game of the season.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.