Story of the season

Published 9:24 pm Friday, October 24, 2014


Senior pitcher Brooke Bates fires a pitch to freshman catcher Morgan Cannon. — Jessica Cannon

When the 2014 Lady Cats softball team began summer practice, one thing was clear: they didn’t get along very well.
When you have 25 to 30 teenage girls practicing almost daily from 8 a.m. to noon in the Bainbridge heat with gnats, it’s easy to understand the dynamic between them might become testy.
“In the beginning, those little differences in personality really come out,” coach Amy Thomas said. “You can let those differences tear a team apart, or you don’t.”
Those differences in personalities ended up working like puzzle pieces for the young ladies—they were unique on an individual basis, but when put together, the big picture can be seen.
Summer was the beginning of one of the most successful softball season’s Bainbridge has seen in years, and the team has more to show for it than their impressive 15-9 record. They built a family that will be difficult to break, and they built a mentality they hope will carry them forward for many seasons to come.
After a successful summer of practice, scrimmages and more practice, the Lady Cats stepped onto the diamond on Saturday, Aug. 9, for their season opener, a doubleheader against Cook and Colquitt counties.
They went home that night with a chip on their shoulder. At the end of the 2013 season, an overwhelming portion of the team graduated. Only five seniors remained in 2014. The Lady Cats lost both games of the doubleheader, but the passion to prove the naysayers wrong was officially lit.
“We just really had a goal from the beginning because nobody expected us (to win),” senior pitcher Brooke Bates said. “Losing 10 people last year, people expected us to be a horrible team, and it was that motivation from the beginning that we wanted to prove who we really were.”
The Lady Cats erupted into a seven-game winning streak, some massive wins, others close calls. One thing was clear: these Lady Cats were no joke.
A 2-0 loss to Thomas County Central Sept. 9 was followed by another win streak. If you step back and look at the team’s overall record, a pattern forms. Every few games, there will be one or two losses sprinkled in there, and the majority of them could barely even be called a loss, the point margins falling within a single run.
The team was on fire. Freshman catcher Morgan Cannon was calling pitches like she had done it all her life. On the mound, Bates’ arm was unstoppable, leading her to a 1.648 ERA for the season.
On offense, when the team was in scoring position, they took advantage, combining for a total of 83 RBIs and 123 runs for the season.
And you can’t talk about scoring runs around the Lady Cats without bringing up Tykira Adams. The sophomore has 17 stolen bases, including one that won the team a crucial game.
Tied at zero with Worth County in the Region 1-AAAA Tournament, Adams stole home plate for a state playoff-clinching win.
“Everybody turned their back to me,” Adams said. “The pitcher was playing with the ball, so I ran. And the catcher wasn’t looking at me either.”
It’s a moment the majority of the Lady Cats and Thomas label as the most memorable this season.
The opponents turned their back for one second, and regretted it.
“It’s kind of symbolic of our whole season, really,” Thomas said. “Everybody turned their back on us because we lost so many seniors last year. Even at region meetings last year, you could tell nobody thought Bainbridge would be at the show. And when they weren’t looking…”
The win was even more stunning with two starting seniors on the bench for the duration of the tournament. Zakiya Callaway, who had spent most of the season with an injured hand, injured the other. Taylor Swanner had torn a ligament in her leg sliding into second during their last regular season game of the season against Albany High School.
“I felt really useless, but I was there for all of them,” Swanner said. “I was still really loud.”
The Lady Cats had placed third in the region tourney, but their adrenaline was pumping as they eagerly headed to the state tournament.
Then their hopes were crushed. Perry High School took them on in a doubleheader on Oct. 15, winning the first 9-3 and the second 12-3. The score isn’t indicative of how close the game was, though, and team photographer Jessica Cannon will be the first to tell you that.
“They just had really good bats,” Jessica said. The Lady Cats outplayed them in every other aspect, but Perry’s offense took off like a rocket.
The season was over. But looking back all the way to those early summer days—back to a time when the players didn’t really like each other (a memory they all laugh about now)—what the team accomplished was worth more than winning or losing. They came together at a time when nobody expected them to win a game and went on to win 15 of 24.
“Looking back at the four years I played here, it’s going to be hard for a team to replace the bond we had,” Bates said.
So how do the Lady Cats do it again next season?
“I think we just learn from it,” Thomas said. “We will never be able to replace these seniors. But we don’t try to replace them. I think we go for something different and continue this feeling of family.”
It was a season of surprises. It was a season where the young ladies learned as much about each other as they did themselves. It was a season of “Live Action,” the team’s adopted slogan, courtesy of freshman Thyra Smart.
It was unforgettable.
By Powell Cobb
Managing Editor

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