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Lady Braves season ends in district tournament

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By Ryan Naus

The Grant County softball team ended their regular season with seven straight wins and entered the postseason in a rhythm.

The rhythm was interrupted with an 11-1 loss to Walton-Verona on May 19 in the first round of the district tournament.

“We had two games at Shelby County on Saturday (May 16) and hoped they could launch us into the district tournament,” coach Ott Reed said. “It’s always been important to me to play on that last day of the season, but they called and said there was a downpour. I saw on Sunday that we didn’t look as ready as we normally would be for a district game.”

The Lady Braves scored first against the Lady Cats, but couldn’t build on Walton-Verona’s mistakes.

“Alesa Collinsworth, my senior, was doing everything in the world to get the players ready, but they didn’t have the fire in their eyes,” Reed said. “We didn’t take advantage.”

The Lady Cats took a 2-1 lead, but built on it in the third inning, hitting a homerun.

“I made the statement to one of my assistants that it wasn’t good and that it would open the floodgates,” Reed said. “They ended up with 14 hits and it amounted to batting practice for them.”

Reed believes that he broke a coach’s rule and got too close to his players.

“I didn’t adhere to that rule and let myself get too close to the players,” Reed said. “When you get too close, they get too complacent with you and you get too complacent with them. There’s no fire there. Even though we had the ability, the passion to win wasn’t there. It’s a fine line on how you get that and if something went wrong, the fear factor would come in.”

The Lady Braves only had two hits in the game, but believes the team can build on the success they enjoyed this season.

“My players don’t realize how important it is for other teams in the district to beat Grant County,” Reed said. “This is a situation I’ve never been in, not winning the first game of the district. But we’ll survive and get to work on our summer program. This team was better than our record showed.”

Freshman Erica Stith was named to the all-district tournament team, getting a hit and throwing out two runners from the outfield.

“We didn’t play as well as we could have,” Stith said. “I wish we could have done better. We hit well the first inning, but after the third inning, we didn’t hit that well. Our defense wasn’t that good either. I hope it was just a bad day. I know we can play better than that. I feel bad for our seniors because they deserved to go to regionals.”

Players to watch: “Samantha Perry played on the varsity this year and she’ll be a player to watch,” Reed said. “Mariah Smith also played some on the varsity. Hanna Thacker will be a great little pitcher someday. In the seventh grade, Macy Wright is a player that you have to watch. There’s other players on the freshman team that can improve and will be right in the mix. We know what we’ve potentially got, but it’s a matter of getting them there.”