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Blacksher eliminates McKenzie in third meeting

The third time was not the charm for the Lady Tigers softball team as McKenzie faced J.U. Blacksher for a ticket to Montgomery.

Unlike the teams’ first two meetings, McKenzie fell to Blacksher 15-4 as a few bad innings spoiled the whole bunch for the Lady Tigers in the final stretch.

Though the Lady Tigers enjoyed a comfortable lead after four innings of play, the wheels fell off as Blacksher rallied with the help of some unearned runs.

“We just left several outs out there, and when you don’t make those routine outs and give them a chance to keep rounding the bases, that’s pretty much what happens,” said McKenzie head softball coach Matt Coghlan.

“But we had a good tournament.  I thought it was a good experience.  We had a lot of girls that hadn’t been in that atmosphere before, and I think we played pretty good ball the first day.”

McKenzie triumphed over their first opponent, Millry, and then fell to an extremely tough Brantley softball team.

“We were in that game for about half of the game—then their bats got hot and they pulled away,” Coghlan said.

“I think we faced the No. 2 pitcher, and she was the best pitcher we faced all year.  She placed the ball really well, and she gave us a lot of trouble and struck us out a lot.  They were definitely a quality opponent, and I think they’ve got a really good chance of winning it all again.”

Though the Lady Tigers didn’t advance to Montgomery, Coghlan insists that the team advanced in several other ways, especially from an experience standpoint.

Coghlan added that the road to the playoffs isn’t an overnight development, but rather a hurdle that has to be accomplished step by step.

Unfortunately, the Lady Tigers are losing two key seniors who’ve been there every step of the way.

“Our two seniors, Mikeia Clemons and Ashley Ballard, both had a really good tournament,” Coghlan said.

“They both hit the ball well. Ashley pitched most of the tournament, and she did a good job just like she always does.

“You hate it for those two in that they didn’t get to advance further, but they definitely fought to the very end.”

Though the team is only losing two players, there is still much work to be done in the offseason to replace the voids left behind by Clemons and Ballard.

Fortunately for the Lady Tigers, a large crop of young talent means the future for McKenzie softball is a bright one.

“We have a really big ninth-grade class, and I look for some of those girls to turn into really good players,” Coghlan said.

“And if that happens, we’ll be competitive again.”