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Lady Eagles soar to second

Pitching was the difference.

Waterloo freshman pitcher Andrea Palmer almost single-handedly powered the Lady Cougars to a Class 1A State Championship in high school softball Saturday.

Palmer threw two no-hitters in the tournament, including one in the championship game against the Pleasant Home Lady Eagles, to run her season total of no-hitters to six along with one perfect game in the sub-state round of the playoffs.

Pleasant Home has three pitchers in freshman Kim Jacobs, eighth-grader Katy Wiggins and junior Leah Turman. They all pitched well at the state tournament, according to Pleasant Home Head Coach Jimmy Reeves. The Lady Eagles, like most of the teams at the state tournament, did not have a dominant pitcher like Palmer.

Regardless, Reeves said he is extremely proud of his players because they fought their way to the championship game out of the loser's bracket.

"What we didn't have in pitching and hitting we made up for with our speed, bunting and defense," Reeves said. "Our defense was great 99 percent of the time.

"We had a better nine than anybody up there with the exception of Waterloo," he added.

The Lady Eagles' goal when the season began was to win a state championship. They almost achieved their goal. Reeves said he is not disappointed in the effort or play of his team.

"I think that we were the second-best team in the state and we got the runner-up trophy," Reeves said. "We did everything we could. We could have played Waterloo closer, but they were the better team and they showed that."

The Lady Eagles came up just short of their goal and Reeves said all of the players were upset. Reeves said the Pleasant Home players probably do not realize how great of a season they had in 2003.

"From Day One, we talked about winning a state championship," Reeves said. "I don't think they have any idea what they've accomplished.

"I'm proud of my team," he added. "I have no regrets. Now, we know what we have to do to be state champs."

The tournament began on Friday with the Lady Eagles winning a first-round game against Westminster Christian by a final score of 3-1. The Lady Eagles then faced the Ragland Lady 3

Purple Devils and gave up two runs in the top of the seventh inning to fall by a final score of 4-3.

The tournament resumed on Saturday with the Pleasant Home Lady Eagles taking on Thorsby at 9 a.m. The Lady Eagles went on top early en route to a 3-2 win.

Brittney Blount and Britni Ballard scored in the bottom of the first inning to give Pleasant Home a 2-0 lead. Kayla Wiggins reached on an error to score one run. The second run came home when Carly Lundy grounded out to second.

Thorsby knotted the score at 2-2 in the top of the third inning and the score remained in question until the fifth inning.

Pleasant Home scored one run in the bottom of the fifth to retake the lead in the elimination game.

Beth Cox started the rally with a one-out double. She scored later in the inning when Ballard reached on an error by the second baseman.

A one-run lead proved to be enough when left fielder Faith Gunter made a diving catch in the top of the seventh to retire Thorsby. The play almost gave Reeves a heart attack as Gunter dove to make the catch and then almost dropped the ball as she rolled to a stop in the outfield grass.

The win set up a rematch with Westmintser Christian and the Lady Eagles won again. This time by a final score of 8-2.

The game was close early with Westmintser Christian cracking a 0-0 tie with one run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Pleasant Home answered with six runs in the top of the fifth.

Gunter, Jessica Johns, Blount, Ballard, Lundy and Amy Jacobs each scored in the inning to give Pleasant Home the lead. Lundy had a big hit in the inning. She plated two runs with a single. Amy Jacobs had an RBI-double in the inning.

The Lady Eagles added two more runs in the sixth inning when Cox and Ballard scored. Ballard had an RBI-double in the inning. Kayla Wiggins plated Ballard with a sacrifice fly.

Westminster Christian added one run in the bottom of the sixth when Katy Wiggins came in to relieve starting pitcher Kim Jacobs. Katy Wiggins did not allow another run as the Lady Eagles coasted to an 8-2 victory. Turman pitched the seventh inning for the Lady Eagles and shut down Westminster Christian.

The win kept the Lady Eagles' championship hopes alive. It also set up a rematch with Ragland.

The Lady Eagles avenged Friday's loss to the Purple Devils with a 2-1 victory in the elimination game.

Pleasant Home started the game with a blast as Cox reached on an error and came around to score. Ballard had an RBI-single in the inning to score Cox.

Lundy scored in the top of the fourth inning for Pleasant Home for a 2-0 lead. She reached on a fielder's choice and scored when Johns drew a base-loaded walk.

Ragland made it exciting, scoring one run in the bottom of the seventh inning to make it a one-run game by a score of 2-1. Katy Wiggins got out of the inning by producing a fly out to Gunter to secure the win.

The win sent the Lady Eagles into the championship game against Waterloo. The Lady Eagles had to win two games to clinch the Class 1A State Championship.

The Lady Eagles ran out of gas in the game against Waterloo after playing three consecutive games on a hot Saturday afternoon. Tournament officials had moved the games up eliminating a break between games due to a rain forecast. The rains never came as Waterloo recorded a 7-0 win against the Lady Eagles to win the title.

Four Pleasant Home players were named to the Class 1A State Tournament All-Tournament Team. Britni Ballard, Carly Lundy, Kim Jacobs and Brittney Blount were selected to the team along with Waterloo's Alicia Orrick, Ashley Graves, Brittney Dowdy and Tournament MVP Andrea Palmer. Ragland's Laura Bagwell and Emily White were also selected to the All-Tournament Team.