The last time a softball season ended, the Lady Bearcats walked away with tears and the bitter taste of defeat stinging in their mouths. This time was much different.
After repeated losses in the North Half finals, the Lady Bearcats played with heart and determination to defeat the East Webster Lady Wolverines to claim Baldwyn’s first ever 2A State Championship in slow-pitch softball.
“Winning state is the best feeling in the world and it feels more special and more rewarding since it’s my last year to play.” said senior catcher Julie Grimes.
A huge gallery of fans made the trip to Jackson on Saturday to cheer on the Lady Bearcats in the two game series that saw Baldwyn (31-2) sweep the Wolverines by scores of 8-4 and 6-1. The large gathering of fans even caused one MHSAA video technician to jokingly say, “You guys must have shut down the whole town today to bring this big of a crowd.” Well, the town wasn’t shut down but the two game series sure had a home game feel with all the cheers for the victorious Lady Cats.
When Maggie Martin turned the series-clinching double play, the celebration began with hugs and tears all around and even found some players too wrapped up in emotion to put their feelings in to words.
“I’m absolutely speechless,” said senior Jorda Waters when trying to describe the thrill of finally winning the elusive state title.
Baldwyn traveled to Jackson to play an East Webster softball team that was no stranger to playing in the capital city. The Lady Wolverines had just won the 2A Fast-Pitch championship this past spring and had plans to win the Slow-Pitch title but those plans would quickly be put to rest by a resilient Baldwyn squad that knew this was their chance to shine.
“I feel blessed to even have the opportunity to even compete in the championship game,” said senior outfielder Sheneria Tyes. “It was a dream that came true! We won the game with God, hard work and a great coach.”
Game one saw the Lady Cats jump out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning when Jorda Waters smashed a double to knock in Maggie Martin and Tyes. East Webster responded in the top of the third inning with four runs of their own to take a 4-2 lead which seemed to slow down Baldwyn’s early momentum. That surge returned for the Lady Cats in the bottom of the inning when Mackenzie Riley scored on another Waters hit and Haley Sandlin would knock in Martin on a Sac-fly to tie it at 4-4. The bottom of the fifth would see Baldwyn take a 7-4 lead when during a two out rally, Sandlin knocked in Tyes and Shelby Blackwell singled to right field to send Waters and Sandlin across home plate. The Lady Cats would add one more run in the bottom of the sixth when Tyes would double to the right field fence scoring Paige Wood making the final score 8-4. Tyes would go 4 for 4 in the game with 1 RBI to lead the way for the Lady Cats. Waters would have 3 RBI’s on 3 hits and Paige Wood would add 2 hits of her own in the game one victory.
In game two, Baldwyn came out swinging in the first inning scoring 4 runs on 7 hits to take a commanding lead. Martin got the scoring started with a triple that would score Riley. Then on the next pitch, Tyes added a triple of her own knocking in Martin to take a 2-0 lead. Two more runs were added in the inning on hits by Sandlin and Wood that would score Baldwyn players Tyes and Kali Nanney. When the first inning dust settled, The Lady Cats were sitting pretty with a 4-0 lead. East Webster could get no runs to answer Baldwyn who would knock in two more runs in the second inning to take a 6-0 lead. Those runs would come on another Tyes triple and a Waters sac-fly. The Lady Wolverines would finally get on the board in the fourth inning with one run to bring the score to 6-1 but it would be no where near enough to shake the Baldwyn defense. The game ended on a Martin double play in the seventh inning to seal the game two victory and the championship for the Baldwyn Lady Bearcats. Game two would see a slew of Baldwyn hitters with two hits in the contest. Mackenzie Riley, Maggie Martin, Sheneria Tyes, Haley Sandlin, Samantha Phillips and Paige Wood would all have multiple hits during the series clinching game.
“This is honestly the greatest softball moment I’ve ever experienced. I feel like every struggle and every mountain we had to climb over the years have finally paid off. These young ladies have worked for this championship since they have been 7th graders,” said Coach Jessica Taylor. “They are the most driven group of girls I have ever coached. They went down to Jackson with a purpose and they were not leaving without bringing that trophy home and the title of state champions. I’m so excited about the upcoming fast-pitch season and working hard to make a return trip to Jackson in May!”