The calendar may read 2022, but the Class A Region 3 softball championship series looks exactly like 2021.
Last year, Midland Trail beat James Monroe in the first two games to win the best-of-3 regional championship.
Tuesday evening it will be the Mavericks and the Patriots one more time for the right to play in the state tournament in South Charleston starting Wednesday, May 25.
“It took us a little bit to figure out where everybody was going to fit into the puzzle, but we really picked a good time to play some really good softball,” Midland Trail head coach Candace Young said.
While Midland Trail lost some players from the state tournament team, it still has plenty of postseason experience from four team captains leading the way.
Senior Meghan Gill hit .426 this year and leads the team in RBIs. She has also been dominate in the circle with a 2.40 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 90 innings.
“She knew coming in that she would be the one we relied on this year and she has done a good job,” Young said.
Senior Chezney Skaggs has been rock solid for Trail at shortstop hitting .347 with a .459 on-base percentage (OBP). Skaggs has two home runs and 15 RBI.
“I only have the two seniors in Meghan and Chez,” Young said. “They have really provided the senior leadership and brought that want to win mentality to the table that has propelled the rest of them forward with them.”
Gill’s battery-mate, catcher Sydney Sheets, is also battle tested and leads the team with a .556 batting average from the lead-off position. Sheets has an eye-popping .944 slugging percentage and leads the team in stolen bases.
Trail’s most explosive player, junior Madison Campbell, roams centerfield with a vengeance. Campbell has great speed and leads the team with seven triples, while hitting .370 with a .459 OBP.
Campbell has frustrated opposing hitters by robbing home runs and holding runners in check with an explosive arm.
“Campbell has wheels for days and Syd behind the plate, I can’t say enough about them. Those four are the only ones that really had a lot of varsity experience for us,” Young said.
While the play of the four captains has been crucial to Trail’s success, the Patriots have received solid play all over the field this year.
“The two playing my corners, Layla Tompkins and Katie Hawkins have stepped up big this year. Alexis Dozier has showed her maturity with some key hits. I can talk about all my kids because they have all come up big for us,” Young explained.
James Monroe has also found the secret to success late in the season after playing a tough schedule throughout the regular season.
“Towards the last six games of the season we have started playing really well. We started hitting the ball. That is what you have to do, especially in softball,” James Monroe head coach Jack Phipps said.
The Mavericks also possess an experienced core of leaders to guide them, along with a talented freshman.
Senior Shannon Phipps has been the most versatile player for the Mavs having played every position in the field this year.
Phipps has a .486 batting average with a .576 OBP. The senior slugger has three home runs, four triples and 30 RBI, to go along with 42 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched.
Fellow senior Madison Vass has been a bulldog at second base for James Monroe hitting .318 with a .524 OBP. So far this season Vass has played with five stitches in her hand, broke her nose and suffered a concussion from her aggressive play.
Freshman Bryleigh Thomas has played well above her years this season sporting a .500 batting average, while hitting two home runs, two triples and driving in 32 runs. Thomas also has 75 strikeouts in 74 innings pitched.
“Bryleigh gets stronger as the game goes on even though she is s freshman. She is a confident player and she lightens everybody up,” Phipps said.
Just like last year, the two teams met only once in the regular season with Trail winning with relative ease.
With her team having had the upper hand of late, Young does not want them to come in overconfident.
“I told the girls that we have to come in and play our game. It has to be almost like a blank slate,” Young said. “If we play our kind of softball, I think we will be alright. We like to mix it up. I do have the advantage of having kids with wheels, so we are aggressive on the base paths. We have girls that can tattoo a ball, but we also like to play small ball.”
Phipps likes the fact that his team is playing game one at home.
“We have only lost two games at home this year,” Phipps said. “We need to come out and hit the ball. The last time we played them we had six walks. We have to cut down on the errors and not walk anybody. We also have to hit the ball. It is all about the basics.”
Game one will be in Lindside Tuesday at 6 p.m. Game two will move to Hico and if game three is necessary, that game will be played back in Monroe County.
“The last two years they have knocked us out. That is a lot of motivation for the girls. I think they want to show they can play with Midland Trail,” Phipps said.