Hico – The last thing Midland Trail head softball coach Candace Young wanted to see was a long layoff in sectional play for her red-hot team.
However, that’s exactly the hand the Patriots were dealt Wednesday in the Class A Region 3, Section 2 championship game against Greenbrier West.
Young’s gritty bunch never missed a beat.
Exploding out of the gate for four runs and then using two long balls, Midland Trail took home the sectional championship plaque with a 7-3 win over the Cavaliers.
“We talked about it and we practiced over the course of the layoff,” Young said. “I told them I knew it was getting monotonous. I knew we were doing the same things everyday, but it is the little things that will make the difference in the game. I thought we showed that tonight. The game plan was to come out, swing the bats early and get a jump on them.”
Desteney Walker fired the first shot when she led off the game for the Cavaliers with a solid double.
Pitching in rainy and muddy conditions, Patriots starter, Emmie Lopetrone knew she would not be able to overpower the West hitters.
“We came in with a plan to pitch around the plate tonight because they are not a bad offensive team,” Lopetrone said. “The rain put a (damper) on that tonight. I tried to keep the ball down the middle of the plate and let my defense back me up.”
Lopetrone induced two fly balls and ended the first inning threat with a strikeout to gain the early momentum.
The momentum carried over to the plate.
Emily Dickerspon walked, stole second and took third on a wild pitch before a perfect bunt from Sydney Sheets scored the first run of the contest.
With runners at first and third, Sheets made it a 2-0 game on a double steal. Faith Bailes followed with a triple to score the third run of the inning and came home on a fielder’s choice from Madison Campbell.
It was the start that Young had envisioned for her team.
“We weren’t sure about the weather, so we wanted to get as much in as we could,” Young said. “I think we can take pressure off of the mound when we come out and play the offensive side of the ball like we did today.”
The home team would add two more runs in the third inning when Campbell launched a deep drive into the trees behind center field for a 6-0 lead.
Having also hit for the cycle in an earlier sectional game, Campbell is seeing the benefits of her hard work.
“Practicing on the tee is pretty much it. Just a lot of practice in my off time,” Campbell said of her hitting success. “When I don’t really have anything else to do, I just go outside and hit. I kinda knew it was gone when I hit that one.”
Just when Trail looked in control of the game, Greenbrier West refused to go quietly.
Three hits and a couple of errors from Trail led to three runs for the Cavaliers in the top of the fifth inning.
“One of the words I used when we huddled up was grit,” Young said “Let me see you prove right now that this (game) is ours. I feel like when they get that grit about them and that intensity, we tend to do good things.”
Although they scored three in the inning, the Cavaliers left two runners aboard in scoring position. On the night, West hurt itself by leaving 11 runners on base.
“You are always looking for that big hit. We left the bases loaded and two runners on a couple of times, so that really hurts,” Greenbrier West head coach Tony Hinkle said. “However, it didn’t deter them. They kept doing their job and kept fighting back. They are not quitters.”
Layla Tompkins hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and Meghan Gill closed the game out in the circle after coming on to quell the West threat in the fifth inning.
Although it was not the outcome Hinkle had hoped for, he was clearly proud of his team’s effort.
“We started the year 4-5 and we only had two girls that had ever played a varsity game before,” Hinkle said. “We won 12 out of the last 14 games. These girls have always been hard workers.”
Midland Trail will now play James Monroe in the best-of-3 regional round starting Monday. Game one will be in Hico, with game two being played at Lindside.
Game three will be back at Midland Trail if needed.
“James Monroe is going to be tough and they are going to come after us, but the girls are ready to go, Young said.”
GW 000 030 0 — 3 7 2
MT 402 010 x — 7 7 2
Pitching — GW: Micaela Alley and Julia Herndon; MT:Emmie Lopetrone, Meghan Gill (5) and Sydney Sheets. WP: Lopetrone; LP:Alley. Hitting — GW: Desteney Walker 3-4 (2b), Julia Herndon 1-3 (rbi), Braelee Brown (rbi), Karli Holliday 1-3 (rbi), Caroline McMillion 1-2, Brooke Nutter 1-3; MT:Sydney Sheets 1-3 (rbi), Meghan Gill 1-3, Faith Bailes (3b, rbi), Madison Campbell 2-3 (HR, 3rbi), Layla Tompkins (HR), Chezney Skaggs 1-2 .