The Liberty County Recreation Department’s Senior girls’ All-Star softball team kept chipping away at their opponents at last weekend’s Georgia Recreation and Parks Association Division B state title tournament in Vidalia.
Eventually the girls faced three-time defending state champion Vidalia and won the two-out-of-three series to take the crown and the state title.
Coach Jeff Struble said the girls won two games on June 24, which placed them in the finals. They would end the evening playing the first of three games against Vidalia, falling 10-7.
Struble said he thinks Vidalia might have taken his girls a bit for granted after winning the opener, especially when his team went ahead 5-1 during the second game June 25. Liberty County ended up winning 5-3.
“I started with Jordan Struble pitching. We got ahead 5-1. It stayed 5-1 until the bottom of the fifth inning and then they got a couple of runs in so I decided to change the momentum of the game,” the coach said. “I put Karson Rogers in and we made some adjustments in the infield.”
Struble said Vidalia was attacking the left side of the field but they didn’t count on his defensive player playing as well as she did.
“Lori Harden was in left field and made 13 catches in two games,” he said. “She was on fire. Harden and Candace Blair were covering that left side.”
Struble said Harden made a diving catch in the second game and she dove head first into home plate to score and give the LCRD girls a 2-0 lead in the final inning. The girls won game two 2-1.
Struble said he did everything he could to keep the Vidalia team confused and coaches flustered.
“We were slapping, bunting, did squeeze plays, hit and run and whatever we could think of to do to throw them off, we did,” he said.
Primarily, he kept switching players around the outfield and infield.
“I moved the girls until we found the right combination, but I had my batting order set up just the way I wanted,” he said. “They were trying to bunt and Tiara Howard caught a bunt in the air and she took a line drive out of the dirt. It was about an inch off the dirt and she snagged it. We were turning plays.”
Struble said he was uncertain how his girls would play after the recent passing of their schoolmate and friend, Josh Ray.
Ray played for the Panthers’ baseball team.
“But the girls, in a tribute to him, wore yellow ribbons in their hair with baseballs on them and they put Josh’s name and number on them. They dedicated Saturday to him. This was the girls’ doing, not mine. They said, ‘let’s do this for the coaches, the parents and for Josh.’”
The team consists of Candace Blair, Charlee Coursey, Morgan Crowley, Brittany Desbiens, Lori Harden, Tiara Howard, Marissa Polston, Karson Rogers, Jordan Struble, Miranda Taylor and Sarah Wells.