Lady Warriors fall short in state finals
Northside Christian’s Brooke Stanford tracks down a ball in the outfield Saturday during the Lady Warriors’ 10-0 loss to Hackberry in the Class C state championship game. (Photo by D. Sexton)
SULPHUR – It wasn’t exactly the hardware they were hoping to take home, but for the Northside Christian Lady Warriors, the trophy they did return to Crowley with Saturday meant their softball program had taken another step in the right direction.
The Lady Warriors, peaking at the right time, advanced all the way to the Class C state championship game over the weekend, only to fall short to district rival and top-seeded Hakcberry, 10-0.
Nonetheless, the championship appearance was the first in the history of the school for the Lady Warriors. One season earlier, they had reached the state semifinals for the first time ever.
“This is huge for our program,” said NCS coach Ryan Hanagriff, whose state runner-up team finished the season with a record of 14-11. “Like we tell the kids, it’s one step at a time………as long as we’re moving forward and getting better.
“The season wasn’t what we had expected; we expected to have a little bit better record. But through the season, I think we grew stronger and we learned some valuable lessons: we reached a milestone last year and we took another step this year.”
The Lady Warriors advanced to the title game with a thrilling 7-3 victory over another district rival, Starks, in a contest that wasn’t decided until the 11th inning.
That grueling contest took a lot out of the Lady Warriors, who had to play in the finals just over three hours later.
“Going into the championship game, I thought we were mentally ready,” said Hanagriff. “But you could see during the course of the game that the girls were fatigued. We were in it until the bottom of the fifth inning and then fatigue kind of took over and we had to pull a couple of players.”
Hackberry led just 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth, after which they exploded for nine runs over the final two frames to put the game away.
“Up until the bottom of fifth, we felt like at any given time if we put something together, we had a chance,” said Hanagriff. “We just couldn’t get that timely hit to put a run on the board.
“But up until that point, we felt like we were physically and mentally able to compete with this team.”
The Lady Warriors were limited to just four hits in the game by senior pitcher Jolie Trahan, who led her team to their fourth consecutive state title. Trahan also walked none and struck out 10.
Katelyn Jones had two hits, including a double, for the Lady Warriors. Sydni Guidry added a double and Madisyn Clement had a single.
“Hackberry is awesome and they have a really good pitcher,” said Hanagriff. “She has a great rise ball, she works in an out and hits her spots and she just keeps you off balance the whole time,” said Hanagriff. “She doesn’t make many mistakes and if you don’t jump on it when she does (make a mistake) you just missed a good opportunity.
“Their pitching is wonderful, their defense is one of the best that we’ve seen this year and they hit the ball well. All around, from top to bottom, they just know and play the game of softball really well.”
In the semifinals, the Lady Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a pair of errors by Starks. They then added another run in the third on an RBI single by Clement, who was handling the pitching duties.
Starks was blanked by Clement for six innings, but they rallied for three runs in the seventh inning to tie the game and send it to extra frames.
“For six and a half innings, we played them perfectly,” said Hanagriff of his team’s semifinal contest. “They hit the ball, but we made some great plays in the outfield. Our defense was just outstanding. They just put some balls in play in the seventh and they were able to tie the game.”
Starks had a chance to win the game in the 10th inning when they loaded the bases with one out. But a grounder to Zera Hanagriff at third base resulted in an unconventional 5-2-5 double play to end the threat.
“They had the bases loaded with one out so I called time and went to the mound and told them we couldn’t let that run score,” said Hanagriff. “It was a crazy 5-2-5 double play, which we never practice. We practice a 5-2-3 double play, which is ideal, but they made a base-running mistake and our catcher picked up on it and it got us out the inning.”
The Lady Warriors didn’t waste their scoring opportunity in the top of the 11th and went on to post four runs on RBI singles by Brooke Stanford and Clement, an RBI bunt by Mallory Vincent and a fielder’s choice by Leah Monte.
Clement sat Starks down in order in the bottom of the frame on a pair of fly outs and a ground out to preserve the victory.
Clement also led the Lady Warriors at the plate with three hits and two RBI. Zera and Zoie Hanagriff and Meghan Jones each had two hits while Monte, Stanford and Vincent each had one. Stanford and Vincent each had two RBI and Zera Hanagriff had a double.