By Madelyn Carter | Staff Writer
Around this time last year, softball became the second team sport to make it to playoffs in Johnson’s history. They defeated Austin High in the first series game, then, surprisingly, lost the other two. This year is different. The Lady Jags are not the same team that they were, and are not ready to be done with their playoff run. With a new pitcher, catcher and big hitters, the team is more determined to win than ever.
The Jags tore Wagner apart last Friday in a 12-2 blowout. Doubles from sophomore Melanie Roe, Jorden Smith, and Geena Garcia, as well as quick base manuevering by senior Casey Simmons, gave the team the lead early in the first inning. With 6 strikeouts by Roe and pop-fly catches by #24 senior Amber Hinkle, the Jags held up their defensive end smoothly.
Next on their plate are the Taft Raiders. Taft finished second in the NISD district ranking, having lost to Clark, O’Connor, and Warren. The Jags played Taft last year and lost 3-0, but with new and up-and-coming players, this is literally a whole new ball game.
The Jags lost the coin toss to Taft and have to win two out of three games in the series to advance to the next round. Yesterday, the Jags won the first game 5-2, with a run by senior Cosette Hernadez in the fourth inning and a grand slam by senior Geena Garcia in the sixth.
“They’re a really good team,” sophomore Melanie Roe said. “So it felt like a big accomplishment, especially because their pitcher is ranked, like, number two in the city.”
Tomorrow’s game promises to be as exciting and challenging as the first.
“We need to do what we did last night; have a solid defense and keep hitting the pitcher and stay on the ball,” Roe said.
“We all need to focus on our hitting, ’cause we can really hit the pitcher,” senior outfielder Casey Simmons said. “We need to focus on hitting the outside pitch, because that’s practically what she gives us all. Once she gives us the perfect pitch, we need to seal it.”
The girls don’t want to repeat last year’s series run; one win and two losses. This year they’re ready to win for keeps, though Taft will be riled up from their defeat.
“Taft really wants to win now,” Simmons said. “I think because we beat them the first time, they’re gonna come out even harder.”
The stakes are high, but hopes are even higher as the team prepares to continue on their journey to regionals.
“I think we’re gonna hit the pitcher better, because we’ll know her better than last game,” Roe said. “With a home field advantage, we’re definitely ready to play.”