I got to see what playoff softball is all about. Mineola and Alba-Golden each fell to state-ranked teams while the Hawkins Lady Hawks advanced to the quarterfinal round. Mineola had a one-game playoff while the Lady Panthers played a best two out of three. Mineola and Alba-Golden represented District 12-3A and both of their opponents were from District 9-3A.
Near the end of my baseball coaching career I had to make a decision while I was the athletic director at North Hopkins. My softball coach moved out of state so I decided to take over the softball program. It was a rebuilding year but we managed to go 13-13 behind the leadership and play of a freshman and a senior. We fell in the bi-district game 13-11 haunted by eight errors after outhitting the other team 10 to 8 and leaving nine runners stranded on the bases.
I learned a lot about small ball that year and how important the bunt is in the softball game. It was a different game than what I had known growing up with my Dad playing shortstop for Ford Motor Company Industrial League. I later learned even more when I attempted to play fast pitch softball and amateur league baseball the same summer. I hit a measly .190 in softball while batting just under .400 in baseball at .396. I was amazed at the things a softball pitcher could do with that big ball.
Over a recent weekend I saw some incredible pitching and a power display by an opponent of Alba-Golden’s who hit a pair of towering home runs at the college stadium. What I did see from our Wood County ladies was some great defense and a never-say-die attitude from both Mineola and Alba-Golden.
At the Lady Panther game I spoke to a man who coaches an “elite” team which had some Pottsboro players on his team. The Lady Cardinals were very good, but I got the feeling they had the advantage with many of the girls playing year-round in summer and fall leagues.
The Pottsboros and Pilot Points of the world have kids who can afford to take private lessons year round at indoor and plush outdoor facilities plus playing on select teams traveling all over the state and the southwest to various top caliber tournaments.
From what I saw on the rosters of both Mineola and Alba-Golden they were filled by the same ladies I have seen participating in volleyball, basketball, softball and track. Very seldom do athletes in the rural areas such as our East Texas outposts get to concentrate on just one sport. To add to that, many of these Wood County young ladies were also academic all district players in the various sports.
Pottsboro had six sophomores and five freshmen on their team and they all played like seasoned veterans. Pilot Point is ranked second in the state with a gaudy 30-1 record, but Mineola gave them all they could handle until the Lady Cats broke open a tight game with a six-run sixth inning.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making excuses for the losses, I am just proud of the young ladies from Mineola and Alba-Golden. They played tough and hard and they did it with great sportsmanship and a lot of class.
Mineola and Alba-Golden fans also deserve kudos for the good sportsmanship I saw displayed throughout the weekend. I would also add in Alba-Golden’s 24-2 bi-district win over Madison, Lady Panther fans showed support for a Lady Trojan team that had zero fans at the game. It was a classy gesture and says a lot about the Alba and Golden communities.
Alba-Golden Coach Tiffani Mason and Mineola’s Rheagan Penn each have done superb coaching jobs and are both wonderful examples for their players. It showed on and off the field.
That is so much better than what happened to my old Samuell Spartans baseball team. They were involved in a player brawl in the second game of series and they stopped the game and awarded Molina the right to advance because they won the first game. The Spartans went home embarrassed and empty-handed.
I would also like to commend the Quitman Lady Bulldogs and Coach Chris Veach for a successful and exciting year. The team played close in district falling to district champ Alba-Golden 3-2 and beating playoff team Edgewood 5-4 in the final game of district. They could have folded up their tent and gone home going into the last week at 1-9 in district, but they came out and whipped a good Eustace team 12-2 followed by the win over Edgewood. Coach Veach’s team showed great improvement in fundamentals this year and it will pay off with a playoff run next year (my prediction).
Hats off to Kevin Gilbreath for getting the Yantis softball program back on its feet and actually fielding a team. The girls got better every practice and each game. They will be ready to compete when next spring rolls around.
After attending the Yantis vs. Trinidad region baseball game Saturday I must add the Owl coaches and players along with their fans with a word on their sportsmanship. The head umpire had to call for a game administrator because of some “words” from Trinidad players. At one point, the Trinidad coach walked on the field and screamed at his players about acting right. The coach went so far as to loudly tell his team they would forfeit if they couldn’t act any better (and they were ahead in the game). Congrats go out to Yantis Coach Jerry Burton and Yantis Athletic Director Mike McMinn along with the Owl players for displaying sportsmanship at all times and for the great season.