Breaking Tradition

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pleasant Home ‘in it to win it’ at state tournament


There’s nothing Pleasant Home’s Lady Eagles want more than a Class 1A state softball championship ring and a “blue map.”


Tomorrow, PHS senior Mary Schwartz and juniors, Abigail Kelley, Raven Woods, Ashley Copeland, Emily Byrd, Caitlin Jernigan and Jordan McGhee will begin play at the state tournament in Montgomery at Lagoon Park.


Lagoon Park isn’t unfamiliar territory for the seven players, as they have made a state appearance each of their years in high school. This will be Pleasant Home’s 11th straight trip to the park just off Eastern Boulevard in the state’s capital.


“We’re going to break the tradition,” Byrd said. “Everybody is going to be in the dug out and mentally focused on what to do. We’re not going to get down. We’re going to give nothing, take everything.”


PHS will face top-ranked Ragland at 9 a.m. tomorrow on Field No. 6, a field the Lady Eagles have traditionally started the state tournament on in the past.


“We like that,” McGhee said about playing on Field No. 6. “You don’t lose focus.”


Coming out and playing Pleasant Home softball, hitting the ball, staying humble and being confident are some of the keys the girls said they need to do to be successful this week.


The Lady Eagles are 29-13 overall after winning four straight at the regional tournament last weekend in Gulf Shores. They beat rival Kinston, who is also competing at state, 4-0 in the championship game.


“We all really came together,” McGhee said about the play in Gulf Shores.


Added Kelley: “We finally stepped up and played Pleasant Home ball like we’re supposed to.”


Woods said it was the most she’s seen the girls play together as a team.


“We were more united last weekend than we have been all year,” she said.


More than the majority of the seven have played with each other, whether on the rec league or travel ball, since they were about 10 years old.


On the field, each said they really know each other and what they can do, as far as abilities are concerned.


“We just know each other’s movements,” McGhee said. “We just do. We know how each other are going to play.”


One area of the game Pleasant Home has really shined in is when the Lady Eagles hit the ball.


“I’m really confident this year not only because we’re hitting one through nine, but I feel we can put in 12 players out there and they can hit one through 12,” Kelley said.


McGhee said it doesn’t matter if the top three in the line up don’t get a hit, “we have confidence in everybody, one through nine.”


Byrd said even the younger girls have stepped up and filled their roles nicely on the team.


“We knew we were going to have holes, but we’re solid everywhere,” she said. “They’ve stepped up and played.”


As the years have gone by, the girls said they honestly have seen a change in themselves as far as what their approaches are to the game.


They are more confident now than ever, they said.


“I just wanted to speak for everybody when we talked yesterday (Monday) at practice that we’ve never been this confident with our team,” Kelley said. “We feel like this is going to be a good year.”


McGhee and Copeland echoed Kelley’s comments.


“We want it more,” Copeland said. “We’re experienced.”


Usually, there are more than one team that makes an appearance at state from Covington County.


Pleasant Home is the only team, and that’s OK by Woods.


“It makes a difference when we’re the only school going this year,” she said.


Kelley said, and with nodding encouragement from her teammates, that everybody on the team wants to win the title this year.


“I think every year we settled in making it to state, but I think this year everybody, including (PHS) Coach (Bradley Stephens), just wants it,” Kelley said. “We’re not settling for anything less than a ring.”