Town Crier Sports Staff
They were young, starting over half of the team with freshmen, but in the end, the Manila Lady Lions (23-8, 13-30) looked like seasoned veterans as they did what they needed to do to put themselves in to a position to win against a truly veteran Smackover squad. The Lady Bucks, however, held off in the end for the 2-1 victory in the opening round of the 3A state playoffs in Sherwood Friday.
"We're young so our mental attitude is something we've been working on," said coach Toby Doke who, even though he was disappointed with the loss, was visibly proud of the way his team came back from a 2-0 deficit to nearly win. "We've been pushing them all year and preaching they have to have the right mental attitude to really compete."
That pushing and preaching nearly paid off in Manila's final at-bat as first Brooke Hill registered her second hit of the day when she slid the ball past the Lady Buck shortstop. Then with one out, Leigha Woody sent the ball over the second baseman sending Hill to second. Collene Kemp then hit the ball directly back to the pitcher who threw off balance to first, bouncing the ball off the ground and loading the bases.
Then on a pass ball, Hill beat the throw home for Manila's only score. Christian Painter, who had gone in as pinch runner for Woody, and Kemp advanced to second and third on steals with only one out. Unfortunately, Amy Butterfield, the Smackover pitcher, finished with two of the 13 strikeouts she would have on the day, shutting down the valiant Lady Lion effort.
Smackover, knowing they had just barely escaped the Lady Indians, acted as if they were the ones who had made a near comeback after the final Manila out. Clearly, they were thankful for the win and appreciative of the young Lady Lions effort. The win put the Bucks in against Pottsville for the second round game.
Kimberly Wise and Hill led the offensive effort with 2 for 3 games while Woody and Kemp finished with 1 for 3 days each registering a steal.
Wise took the loss, pitching the entire game. In facing 29 batters, she gave up two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out five.
"Softball in our region of the state hasn't caught on yet like it has in some other places," Doke concluded. "You can tell it some when you get to the regionals and definitely when you get to state. We had a good run in the district and in the regionals so we had a good year."