By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In a first week full of showdowns, it was finally time for the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels and Brighton Lady Cardinals to cross paths.
On the turf of the TRA Softball Field, the clock struck 6:30 p.m. and the umpired yelled “play ball” to start the game between the area softball powers. The sounds heard throughout the March 22 night were the pings of Lady Cardinal bats crushing four home runs leading to a 16-1 victory in five innings.
Brighton was in need of a pick-me up after facing tough teams in the Magnolia State. Lady Cardinals Head Coach Robin Jacobs knew coming back to the Volunteer State would present a challenge facing Lady Rebel senior Charlie Rice.
“We went down there and we knew that there were many good teams,” he recalled. “I’m telling you we went to win but they were really good teams. We got humbled. Tonight you saw a product of what we’ve saw the last four or five games. Because Charlie is a really good pitcher. Don’t let the final score fool you. She’s a very good pitcher.
“We were sort of waiting to break out,” he continued. “I can’t say enough about Katlyn Jones tonight. She didn’t strike all of them out but she got us easy ground balls for our people. They’ve got a good team but we’re real fortunate to be where we are at right now. We’ve been humbled recently and we’ve been humbled for the last three years. So hopefully we’ll be doing some humbling coming up soon.”
Lady Cardinal sophomore pitcher Katlyn Jones was able to out duel Rice with tons of offensive support. Kelsey Camp got things rolling for Brighton with a first-pitch home run from her leadoff position.
With Rice having the ability to throw lights out, Jacobs was hoping for more run support. In her first two starts of 2021, Rice threw 12 innings with 20 strikeouts in picking up wins.
But the Lady Cardinals were ready for the challenge and added three runs in the third inning. Camp stroked a double to drive in Madie Perkins after she reached on a single. Two batters batter Camp crossed home plate along with Brie Howard. The sophomore catcher jacked a Rice offering more than 230 feet to make the score 4-0.
Brighton tried to ice the game in the fourth inning with a Timily David two-run double to make the score 6-0. Once again the stage was set for Howard with a runner on base. This time Howard crushed the pitch and hit the TRA scoreboard to make the score 8-0.
The Lady Rebels were down but still had some fight courtesy of eighth grader Addie Thorpe. The youngster drove in TRA’s only run of the night with a single scoring Ryleigh Bowers.
In the fifth inning Brighton did ice the game with Perkins driving in two runs with a double. David made the score 11-1 with a run producing double of her own and the exclamation point came off the bat of Carley Cook when she hit a three-run homer to make the score 15-1.
“I’m just proud of the effort of our kids today,” Jacobs said. “They had a chance to lay it down a few times last week but refused to do it. I saw that Saturday in the last game with them giving good effort. We were 3-3 down there.”
TRA Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello’s team started the season 2-0 picking up wins over Dyersburg and Dyer County.
“I thought we were going to be OK after the first week,” he acknowledged. “We’ve never started off hot, offensively especially. I think we had 24 hits in those first two games. I thought we figured it out and turned the corner.”
The Lady Rebels went up to Jackson and beat Jackson South Side. Then TRA dropped a thriller to Chester County unable to overcome errors. After bouncing back with wins over South Gibson 2-1 and Bartlett 7-4, South Gibson ended TRA’s stay in Jackson with a loss.
“We competed a little bit but not like we needed,” Sanfratello said. “Tonight sometimes it’s your time and tonight we our time. Boy they can hit. They hit the ball. They got up there every time looking to hit the ball hard each time. They out hit us and they out everything us.”
After the humbling experience against Brighton, Sanfratello preached one word to his players during the post game — “competing.”
“I said tonight, ‘I like the idea of telling them get in there take aggressive swings,’” he said. “But when it comes down to it, it’s all about competing. That’s all I have to say about tonight. I know that sounds cliche’ but we just didn’t compete tonight.”
Jacobs said a quality win over a team that will make noise in May is another step in the right direction for his Lady Cardinals.
“We’ve got to keep progressing,” he concluded. “Hopefully this is not a finished product at all. We’ve got 8 weeks to go almost. Hopefully it will get better. But you’ve seen a lot of progression from this past weekend and even last week against Millington. We’re going to be alright. We’ve just got to keep progressing.”