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Lady Bears in softball playoffs tonight

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    SULPHUR BLUFF – The Sulphur Bluff Lady Bears are on a roll in softball and they want to ride that hot streak as long as they can.
    Maybe even to the state tournament.

    Who’s to say they can’t after they’ve done what they’ve done so far this year.
Let’s back track for a moment – Sulphur Bluff, ranked No. 3 in the state, won the 18-1A title. Then got a bye in the first round. Next they knocked off Fruitvale in the regional quarterfinals in a three-game thriller, 2-1. Winning by scores of 4-2, 3-1 after dropping the opener 7-4. The Lady Bears pounded Union Hill in two straight 5-1 and 13-3 to win the regional semifinals.
    Now they’re making history, ready to take on No. 5 ranked Slocum in the regional finals. Game 1 is set for 6 p.m. today at Lindale, Game 2 is at 6 p.m. Friday, also in Lindale. A third and deciding game would be played at the same location, 30 minutes after the end of the second game.
    The Lady Bears are boldly going where no other Sulphur Bluff softball team has gone before. They’resetting school records and loving it.
    “We’re taking these steps together and experiencing all this with each other,” said Austin Darby, first year head coach of the 11-10 Lady Bears. “I’ve never coached a team to go this far before… heck, this is just my first year to be a head coach.”
    Darby, a Como-Pickton and A&M-Commerce graduate, is glad he stayed in the area or he wouldn’t be enjoying such a great ride in the playoffs.
    The coach even was headed back to practice after undergoing a root canal. Now that’s dedication to the task ahead.
    Darby said, “The reason we are so good… he repeated the question back. We’re so good because everything we do is around the team aspect. We have a good lineup top to bottom, we don’t have anybody the other team can really concentrate on getting out. We do everything with the team in mind.”
    “I’m just so glad we made it this far,” Darby said. “We lost our first game in the playoffs to Fruitvale. We were really nervous. We gave up seven unearned runs. That’s all the runs they got, they beat us 7-4. So if we hadn’t been nervous, they might now have scored. Since then we have settled down and are playing well.”
    The attack for the Lady Bears might be described as thunder and lightning with a some heavenly help mixed in. Let me explain.
    Sulphur Bluff has what coach Darby describes as a “dominant pitcher” in Kaylon Hume. She could be described as a bolt of lightning racking up 65 strikeouts in just 51 innings.
    “Kaylon really mixes up her pitches well,” Darby said. “She has a very good fast ball, a nice changeup and a good curve. She keeps the other team off balance. At one point this season, she was so dominant, she was accounting for one third of our outs recorded. She has toughness and never wants to come out of the game.”
    Makenna Morgan swings the thunder stick at the dish.
    “Makenna has nine homers this year,” Darby said. “In several games she’s hit one or more. She’s got the power. Like Kaylon, she is just a sophomore.”
    The heavenly help could be in the former of freshman hitter Angel Brown.
    “Angel just does everything,” Darby said. “She can beat out a ball for the hit. She can drive in runs or move runners over. She’s hit second all year.”
    Darby admits that to start the year, he saw great potential, but little experience.
    “The more we played this year, the more confident we got,” Darby said. “That’s why we’re still winning, we are having fun playing the team game. To get where we are is a great challenge, but we have bigger games ahead. The key for us is to stay level-headed and keep our head in the game and play ball.”
    The Lady Bears are: freshmen, Ann Dorner,  Angel Brown, Dalena Di Danoto; sophomores, Kaitlyn White, Kiersten Brown, Makenna Morgan, Margaret Ryman, Kaylon Hume; juniors, Emily Guajardo, Layna  Earley and senior, Hailey Halbert.
    Awaiting on the horizon is Slocum team which has also recorded some impressive wins.
    The Lady Mustangs, ranked No. 5 in the state, won District 21-A, got a bye and then beat Martinsville, 16-5 and blanked Kennard, 11-0.
    Darby said, “I haven’t really scouted them, they played the same time we did. I hear they also have a very good pitcher. We just have to play our game an keep on doing what we have been doing. We want to make the state playoffs. I know we have the talent, we just have to put it all together.”




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