By Brandon Speck
Softball isn’t all ponytails and over-sized ribbons. Ask Hamilton coach Bryan Loague.
Sometimes, it’s about honesty and his Lady Lions’ ability to accept honesty has played a large role in getting them to were they are today, Ridgeland’s Freedom Ridge Park for Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 1A state championship series.
Loague stood frustrated outside the fence at the Nettleton Tournament on April 12. His team has just lost an error-plagued game against North Pontotoc. He almost angrily shared stories of a frustrating season.
“We can do a story if we make it to Jackson,” Loague said.
He openly had plenty of doubts his team would be making this trip today to face Bogue Chitto at 6 p.m. So did most.
In one game, a player had thrown a ball clear over a dugout. One player was missing during a team chat. It had to beat favorite and division opponent Smithville in last week’s North finals. Odds were stacked.
But now, the Lady Lions (22-9) are one of four area teams opening state championship play today, with East Webster in 2A, Nettleton in 3A and Houston in 4A.
After a 7-1 loss to North champion Nettleton to end the Lady Lions’ day in the tournament, Loague had a heart-to-heart – one of a few this season, he says.
Since then, the only loss came to Mooreville, 7-6, a game the Lady Lions led 6-0. So what changed?
“Attitude,” Loague said. “I think it was a confidence level more than anything.”
While Loague says the pitching hasn’t carried as much of a load as he thought it would, the hitting has been better than expected, especially the final month of the season, after the Nettleton Tournament.
“Our hitting the last four weeks, we’ve hit the ball probably as well as anybody,” Loague said.
Five seniors – Cheyenne Logan, Alison Atkins, Raimi Bryan, Taylor Hyland and Jordyn Jackson – have Hamilton in the title series for the first time since 2010 and looking for the school’s first title.
Only a month ago, odds were against Hamilton. But Loague said the team responded to confrontational challenges to overcome on and off-field trials.
“They handled it pretty well. They accepted that they had to get better,” Loague said, “that we weren’t very good and had to work to get better.”
East Webster vs. Taylorsville: Lady Wolverines are defending champions.
Nettleton vs. St. Patrick: Two-time defending state champs (St. Patrick) against Lady Tigers team that won three straight titles in 2009-11.
Houston vs. Newton County: Newton is defending champ and has four state titles in last seven seasons. Houston won the 4A title in 2012.