HomeSportsLady Eagles softball battle tested for tournament

Lady Eagles softball battle tested for tournament

Spring sports postseason starts this week, and Jackson Christian softball enters the Division II-A West region tournament as the No. 1 seed coming out of District 5.

They opened their play on Wednesday at home with a 16-0 win over St. George’s.

For one, entering as the top seed gives them a better draw to get through the tournament.

But the Lady Eagles’ overall record of 15-11-1 doesn’t look that impressive until one takes into account who they’ve played out of district.

“I’ve always tried to schedule as tough of a non-district schedule as I could to really test our girls and show them what good teams look like and so we can know we can play with good teams before we get to the postseason,” said head coach Jennifer Wheeler. “When we were in Division I and that district with Scotts Hill and Riverside and they were winning all the time, I did it then.

“And I’m doing it now when we’re playing tough competition like USJ and Tipton-Rosemark in our district now.”

Wheeler said she tries to schedule a couple of tournaments outside West Tennessee during the regular season because that does give the opportunity to play some good teams the players might not be as used to seeing and to forge deeper bonds among the players.

“A team can really become closer when they get on the road for a few days, stay in hotels, travel and spend more time together in-between playing a string of games against tough competition,” Wheeler said.

They played in the Bama Bash in Florence, Ala., in April, and played a couple of teams who were defending state champions in larger classifications in Alabama and a few others who are viewed as contenders for championships this year with multiple players projected to sign scholarships with colleges of all sizes.

“We took some losses in that tournament, but I could tell when we got back to practice and games that following week that we were better,” Wheeler said. “So the plan for that is that we’ve played these teams that are good, and we competed with them and beat some of them.

“In the next couple weeks, we’re hopefully going to keep winning and play teams we haven’t seen that we know are good from Memphis or other parts of the state if we make it out of region. Hopefully we feel confident that we can compete because we’ve already competed with quality teams.”

Wheeler said it does take some effort on her part to make sure some of the younger players don’t get discouraged if there is a losing streak in there.

“There have been a stretch or two where we’ve lost three games in a row, and some of the younger girls weren’t expecting that,” Wheeler said. “But the older girls have dealt with it before and were able to help those younger girls.”

Entering the tournament, McKinley Arnold is the Lady Eagles’ most productive hitter with a .552 batting average with four home runs and 33 RBI – all three stats lead the team.

Trinity Brooks is batting .406.

Maggie Richardson is leading the Lady Eagles defensively with a 4.17 ERA pitching and a 9-5 record as a starter.

Bailey Robinson is a dual threat with a .328 batting average, three home runs and 20 RBI on the offensive side and being an option at pitcher for the Lady Eagles.

“I’ve never had a team with two pitchers that I could count on to start any day to the point that if we have a pitcher that appears in warm-ups like maybe she doesn’t have her best stuff that day, we can make the call to go with the other pitcher,” Wheeler said. “And both pitchers play in the field too, so it’s not like the other pitcher goes to the dugout.

“They’re both out there contributing. And I can say for every girl on this team, everyone is contributing. Which is what you want to see from your team, and hopefully that will carry over into the region tournament.”

After the first couple rounds at higher seeded teams, the region tournament moves to St. George’s next week.

Brandon Shields,

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