Not in eight years have the Lady Bulldogs won the Union Co. tournament in softball. That changed on Saturday, and for two seniors, it is, what they hope, a sign of good things to come for the remainder of their final season at New Albany.
“We tried to modify our attitudes, set them aside and work together, and by doing that, we’ve now learned that we can win things like this,” Jalanna Cameron said.
Along with Amber Mirfield, New Albany came into this weekend’s tournament at 3-5, having fallen to Lewisburg in extra innings last Tuesday, 3-2, to open division play. That loss in a hard fought game gave the Lady ‘Dawgs what they needed to go through the UCT undefeated.
“The team played very well. We finished a very tough division game at Lewisburg on Tuesday, and I think that contributed to our slow start,” coach Tom Zahller said. “We were anxious to play in the county tournament, but at the same time, I think we were still hurting from the division loss.”
The opening game for New Albany was a come-from-behind affair, avenging an early 6-1 deficit to defeat West Union, 7-6, on Friday night.
Tied at one in the third inning, the Lady Eagles scored five runs with RBI hits from Gina Beth Conlee and Bailey Bogue. New Albany answered scoring three runs in the bottom half of the inning and taking the win in the fourth on an RBI double by Jalanna Cameron. Having the first win in place, Zahller challenged his team to come out strong on Saturday, as they played three games.
“Once we started going and we came back against a very good West Union team, I told the girls this morning to come out early and set the tone for the rest of the day,” Zahller said. “I think that’s what they did. They got some rest and got ready to play this morning.”
The Lady Bulldogs opened Saturday with convincing wins over Ingomar, 14-3, and Myrtle, 9-2, to set up the championship game with East Union, who also entered the tournament's final game at 3-0.
Like New Albany, the Lady Urchins opened on Friday with a close win, holding on to defeat West Union, 2-1. East Union also picked up wins against Myrtle, 7-3, and Ingomar, 7-5.
In the final game of the tournament, the Lady Urchins got on the board first, as Ashley Leach scored in the opening inning. New Albany tied the game in the third, with Cameron bringing in Mallory Beaty on an RBI triple. The next inning, defensively, was the biggest for the Lady ‘Dawgs in the tournament, as they held East Union scoreless despite the Lady Urchins loading the bases with no outs.
“That’s what we call a momentum changer,” Zahller said. “I told them after they did that, this is how you get games won. We turned that around and had a very big inning offensively, and I’m very proud of them, defensively, in that inning.”
The next inning for the Lady ‘Dawgs at the plate saw seven runs scored off of five hits, with RBI hits by Kayla Pavlick, Morgan Beaty and Megan Dye. East Union was held to one hit for the remainder of the game, as Mallory Beaty earned the win in the circle. The junior pitched in three of New Albany’s four games, resting against Myrtle while Pavlick took her place. Zahller noted the strength of his pitchers throughout the tournament.
“Mallory has exceeded our expectations this year. She’s a real team leader, and when she’s on the mound, the girls feel that they can win any game,” he said. “Playing three games in a day is tough, even if it’s only five innings each. Mallory was tired [against East Union], and in the fourth inning of this one, I asked her, ‘can you get me six more outs?’ She said, absolutely, and then in the last inning I told her, ‘you have three outs and you can win the county tourney,’ and she said I’ve got it. When she said that in front of the girls, it meant everything to them and gave them that confidence.”
Now on a four-game winning streak, New Albany will play at Corinth on Monday before returning to division play next Thursday against Senatobia.
“All you have to have is confidence, and from that loss on Tuesday [against Lewisburg], I think we gained it there and carried it into the county tournament,” Mirfield said. “We’re going to keep this momentum going into division play, and win or lose, we’re still the pride of New Albany.”
Friday, March 23
East Union 2, West Union 1
Ingomar 4, Myrtle 1
New Albany 7, West Union 6
East Union 7, Myrtle 3
Saturday, March 24
New Albany 14, Ingomar 3
West Union 4, Myrtle 1
East Union 7, Ingomar 5
New Albany 9, Myrtle 2
West Union 13, Ingomar 3
New Albany 8, East Union 1