Lady Gladiators are Regional Semi-finalists; Blue Ridge advances

Image: Lady Gladiators get ready to take on Blue Ridge in game 3 — Cori Jeffords, Alyssa Richards, Megan Richards and Anna Viers are ready to play game three against Blue Ridge after the playing of the national anthem.

Lady Gladiators get ready to take on Blue Ridge in game 3 — Cori Jeffords, Alyssa Richards, Megan Richards and Anna Viers are ready to play game three against Blue Ridge after the playing of the national anthem. (Barry Byers)

Forney — After tying the best of three regional semi-final series 1-1 with the 10th ranked Blue Ridge Lady Tigers on Thursday, the Italy Lady Gladiators stormed out of the dugout to take a 2-0 lead in Saturday’s game 3. Blue Ridge quickly countered to go up 3-2 and eventually ended the Lady Gladiators’ 2010 playoff run with a 12-7 win over Italy.

Top of the 1st inning:
Italy’s Anna Viers singles between short and third into left field. Italy’s next two batter’s strikeout. Alyssa Richards gets walked, 2 on base for the Lady Gladiators. With two strikes, Drew Windham doubles to left field giving Italy a 2-0 lead. The next batter swings at strike three for the third out, it’s Blue Ridge’s turn.

Bottom of the 1st inning:
With 1-out and two on base, Blue Ridge gets an RBI single, Italy continues to lead 2-1. With runners on first and second, the Lady Tigers ground out to Cori Jeffords, Italy’s second baseman, who throws to Windham on first for the second out. Blue Ridge ropes a liner to centerfield for a 2-run RBI single, Blue Ridge roars ahead 3-2. Italy’s head coach Jennifer Reeves flops Megan Richards at third base with pitcher Courtney Westbrook. Megan Richards gets the strikeout to bail Italy out of the inning.

Top of the 2nd inning:
With 1-out, Meredith Brummett singles to left field for the Lady Gladiators. Westbrook flies out to right field. Viers flies out to centerfield.

Bottom of the 2nd inning:
Blue Ridge dinks one to the mound. Megan Richards throws to Windham on first for the first out. The next two Lady Tiger batters earn full count walks, two on base. A sacrifice bunt moves the runners to second and third, 2-outs. Blue Ridge drives the ball deep to right field. Italy’s right fielder Alma Suaste tries to make a back-handed catch above her head but the ball bounces out of her glove. The 2-run double increases Blue Ridge’s lead 5-2, one runner on base.

The next Lady Tiger batter follows with an RBI single to left field, Lady Tigers in control 6-2. Blue Ridge drives a fly ball straight to Brummett in left field who runs up to make the third out catch.

Top of the 3rd inning:
With 1-out, sisters Megan and Alyssa Richards occupy third and second base. Windham chops one back to the mound and races to first. Blue Ridge’s pitcher holds Megan Richards for a beat and then throws to first to get Windham for the second out.

Blue Ridge’s first baseman throws to the catcher, catching Megan Richards in a run-down between home plate and third base. After a brief chase, the Lady Tiger catcher tags Megan Richards from behind to help Blue Ridge escape the top half inning.

Bottom of the 3rd inning:
Blue Ridge hits a grounder to the mound. Megan Richards throws to Windham on 1st for the first out. Megan Richards gets a strikeout for the second out. A grounder is hit to Windham who throws back to Jeffords covering first base for the third out.

Top of the 4th inning:
Italy’s first batter strikes out. Brummett gets on base and then steals second. Suaste lays down a sacrifice bunt to move Brummett to third base, 2-outs. Westbrook is walked. Viers hits a grounder to Blue Ridge’s shortstop who flips the ball to the second baseman for the force out.

Bottom of the 4th inning:
With a runner on base and 1-out, Blue Ridge gets an RBI triple to make the score 7-2. The next batter hits a shot that deflects off the right shin of pitcher Megan Richards. The ball reaches Westbrook guarding third base who beats the runner to first with the throw. Windham makes the grab for the second out but the Lady Tiger runner on third scores, 8-2 Blue Ridge.

Megan Richards remains in the game and strikes out the next batter for the third out but limps to the dugout.

Top of the 5th inning:
With Megan Richards on third, Alyssa Richards on second and Jeffords on first, Italy loads the bases against Blue Ridge. With no outs, Windham battles at the plate until she gets walked. Megan Richards trots in to close the gap 8-3.

After a pitching change by Blue Ridge, Italy’s Bailey Bumpus makes her way to the plate. Bumpus blasts a 3-run double into the Lady Tiger outfield. Suddenly, Lady Gladiator Softball, Incorporated was back in business, clawing their way back into the game against the Lady Tigers, 8-6 with no outs and 1-runner on base.

Unfortunately, Italy’s next three batters strikeout but not before giving Italy’s fan base hope.

Bottom of the 5th inning:
Desperate to respond, Blue Ridge leads-off with a single thru the first base gap. With the Lady Tiger runner now on second, Blue Ridge hits a grounder to the mound. Megan Richards holds the runner at second and then throws to Windham at first base for the first out.

Megan Richards strikes out the next Blue Ridge batter for the second out. Another grounder back to the pitcher is scooped by Megan Richards who zips the throw to Windham for the third out. The score remains 8-6 heading into the 6th.

Top of the 6th inning:
Blue Ridge gets three up, three down to retire the side. Viers strikes out. Megan Richards grounds out and Alyssa Richards grounds out to third.

Bottom of the 6th inning:
With runners on first and second, Blue Ridge grounds to Westbrook on third who quickly steps on the bag for the force out. Still with runners at first and second, Blue Ridge lines a shot to centerfield. 1-run scores as the Lady Tigers replace runners on first and second, 9-6 Blue Ridge.

A driving shot to centerfield scores another run for Blue Ridge. A series of errors by Italy allowed two more runners to cross the plate, 12-6 Blue Ridge.

With her team disordered and Lady Tiger fans going crazy, Italy pitcher Megan Richards waves the entire Lady Gladiator defense to the mound in an effort to regroup. Blue Ridge keeps the pressure on, however, and doubles over Brummett in left field. With 1-runner on and only 1-out, Coach Reeves replaces Megan Richards with Westbrook from third.

Viers collects the next grounder and throws to Windham for the second out. Blue Ridge pops one up towards first with Windham making the catch in foul territory for the third out.

Top of the 7th inning
Needing 6-runs to extend the contest, Jeffords stays calm at the plate and gets walked. Windham hits a solid shot to Blue Ridge’s shortstop who flips the ball to the second baseman for the force out. Bumpus grounds out to third but sends Windham to second. Brummett singles over the Lady Tiger shortstop who was unable to make a diving grab allowing Windham to score from second, 12-7. With two on for Italy, Suaste hits a grounder to third base but can’t beat the throw to first. And with that, the Lady Gladiators’ season ended in Forney.

As the tears smeared the eye black down the Lady Gladiators’ faces, the team circled the pitchers mound and did one final cheer. After exiting the field, the players received hugs from proud family members and fans. It didn’t take long for one smile, and then another to flash thru the crowd as the memories of an amazing season soon washed away the sad.

Blue Ridge wins the class 1A regional semi-final 12-7 over Italy. Blue Ridge will meet the Sam Rayburn Ivanhoe Lady Rebels in the regional finals. Sam Rayburn Ivanhoe defeated Italy’s district foe, the Hubbard Lady ’Jaguars, in two games by scores of 7-2 and 17-1 to advance.

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Final
Italy 2 0 0 0 4 0 1 7
Blue 3 3 0 2 0 4 0 12

“It has been a great season and a great four years with these seniors. I feel like we came full circle. We started out with two loosing seasons and ended with two winning seasons. I feel like we’ve built a great program over the past four years. At the end of the day, it’s not about winnining or loosing, it’s how you play the game,” stated Italy’s head softball coach Jennifer Reeves.

Reeves continued by saying, “We may not have made it to Austin, but we worked hard we played with heart and we played with pride, representing our school well. My four seniors, Courtney Westbrook, Meredith Brummett, Drew Windham and Cori Jeffords will continue to do that throughout their lives and that shows a lot of character. They have also taught the ones coming up how to carry on that tradition. With that being said, everybody is a winner in my book.”

Reeves also added, “A HUGE thank you to my assistant coaches Andi Windham and Tina Richards and my seniors for being there for me when I was sick. Sometimes I felt like those four seniors believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and that speaks volumes for the type of kids they are. My seniors taught me a couple of things also… Sometimes in life you may get knocked down but you stand back up, you dust yourself off and you hold your head up high!”

After finishing 2nd in district, behind eventual regional semi-finalist Hubbard, the Lady Gladiators won a bi-district championship, an area championship and a regional quarterfinal championship before wrapping up their 2010 season as regional semi-finalists. Tying a school record as the third Lady Gladiator softball team that has ever reached the fourth round of the playoffs along with the 2003 team and 2004 team who were co-coached by Johnny Jones and Mike Saucke, Sauke is currently the head coach in Hubbard.

Still a young group, the Lady Gladiators will continue to be a threat for years to come. Congratulations to the coaches, the seniors and the entire team for another exceptional year. After making the final 32 last season, Italy was one of 16 teams battling for a trip to Austin this weekend.

The 2010 Lady Gladiators were 26-8 overall, going 7-2 in the playoffs. What a season!

Good luck to seniors Courtney Westbrook and Cori Jeffords as both begin pursuing athletic careers at the college level. Westbrook and Jeffords will add positive, hard working attitudes to their rosters, be great role-models for their schools and their communities and are proving academic achievers as well.

The 2010 Lady Gladiators’ playoff roster:

  • Meredith Brummett
  • Bailey Bumpus
  • Drenda Burk
  • Katie Byers
  • Khadijah Davis
  • Casi Jeffords
  • Cori Jeffords
  • Alyssa Richards
  • Megan Richards
  • Alma Suaste
  • Anna Viers
  • Courtney Westbrook
  • Drew Windham

Coach: Jennifer Reeves
Assistant Coaches: Tina Richards and Andi Windham
Managers: Paige Westbrook and Maria “Pita” Luna
Superintendent: Jimmie Malone
Principal: Tanya Parker
Athletic Director: Craig Bales

We love our Lady Gladiators!