Junior Lady Cats Defeat Valliant

Antlers Junior Lady Cat Brooke Burrage tags a runner out at the plate in last week’s action at Caney.
Wes Haddox
Sports Correspondent

In the first half of their season this year, the Antlers Middle School Junior Lady Cats slow pitch softball team looked good at times and not so good at other times. It was obvious that potential was there but the team had trouble getting their pitching, offense, and defense, all three playing well simultaneously and on a consistent basis. But the team continued to work hard knowing that their persistence would eventually pay off.

After playing well in the Caney Tournament over the weekend, the Lady Cats hosted one of their biggest rivals, the Valliant Lady Dawgs, on Monday, April 12. Antlers had already lost to Valliant so they knew they would have to play well to have a chance to pick up the win. At times, junior high slow pitch softball games can be slow with not much excitement or entertainment, especially when pitchers can’t throw strikes. But it was obvious from the first inning that this game would be different. Both teams’ pitchers were throwing strikes and the batters were responding with hard-hit balls. The difference in this game, was the defenses. Valliant was hitting the ball well, as they usually do, but the Lady Cats’ defense was outstanding. Time after time, Valliant thought they had connected for a base-hit only to be disappointed by an amazing play by the Antlers D. Infielders Karli Bailey and Addisen Bouffleur made play after play as Valliant had trouble getting the ball pass the left side of the infield. When they did, outfielders Jaelyn McIver and Landri Mickel were there to consistently make great catches at key times in the game stopping the Lady Dawgs every time they tried to mount a rally. Pitcher Kyla Kinslow did an outstanding job in the circle for the Lady Cats as she continued throwing strikes allowing her defense to back her up and not putting runners on base with walks.

The Valliant defense was also playing well. But Lady Cat catcher Brooke Burrage finally picked up a base hit to break the slump. Pinch runner Keylee Wilkins came in to run for her and then scored the first run of the game when Landri Mickel knocked her in to give Antlers the lead. Mickel also scored in the inning as the Lady Cats took a 2-0 lead. Valliant was able to cut the lead in half by scoring a run sending the game into the final inning with Antlers leading 2-1. With the home teams’ fans knowing they were three outs away from picking up the win, Coach Zachary fired up his team sending them to the field hoping to close it out. The Lady Dawgs got the tying run on second base with the go ahead run at the plate. With the game on the line, the Antlers defense was up for the challenge as they closed it out it picking up an impressive 2-1 win over their rivals from McCurtain County, much to the satisfaction of an excited crowd.

Both teams emptied their benches in the second game but the strong play continued by both teams with the defenses stepping up and making impressive plays making for an exciting game. The offenses were able to put a few more runs on the board but Antlers came away with their second win of the day with a score of 5-4.

Coach Zachary commented after the game, “That’s as well as we have played all year. This group of girls has worked hard and it’s starting to pay off. They’re a fun group to coach. I wish we could keep playing but unfortunately the season is almost over.”