Dutchtown makes a run to state title game
Many Dutchtown players cried their eyes out on the field at Frasch Park after their 3-1 loss to Sam Houston in the state title game last Saturday night.
The close defeat hurt but regardless of the agony of being so close to a championship and falling short, the Lady Griffins had nothing to hang their heads over in Sulphur.
It was just a year ago that they were upset in the first round of the playoffs. They refused to be victims of the same fate.
They showed tremendous grit throughout this year's postseason as they fought off a 2-0 seventh-inning deficit to beat Hanville in the second round.
Once in Sulphur, they blanked favored Mount Carmel, 5-0, in the quarterfinals and then in the semifinals, they came from behind once again to beat parish and district rival East Ascension.
It was a magical run that head coach Nancy Ensminger thought her team was prepared to make because of the great competition they had faced during the year.
"I think our schedule was difficult. We fought the weather," Ensminger said. "The preparation to this point has made us very successful in key situation that we saw this weekend.
"Any time we got in a situation throughout the season, I would tell them, 'Hey, we're in this situation for a reason. You're going to see this again. Let's see how we're going to handle it' and they saw it again and they handled it victoriously.'"
After a loss to East Ascension during the year, Coach Ensminger promised her team would come back stronger. That's a promise her and the Lady Griffins kept.
They made a run to the title game against perennial power Sam Houston and led 1-0 heading into the fourth inning.
It was there that the Lady Bronco bats came alive and forced Dutchtown to make some tough plays that they fell short of making and from the circle, Outstanding Player Tanner Wright only gave up one hit after the second inning.
"I thought she pitched well against us. Getting a lead was big. They capitalized on some of our mistakes and they hit the ball well," Ensminger said. "Kudos to them; that was a good team we lost to today."
Dutchtown took the lead in the second inning after Royelle Cobb smoked a triple down the rightfield line and was sent home on an RBI single by Blayne Pence.
Unfortunately for the Lady Griffins, after a Taylor Heck single, they left two runners stranded to end the inning.
Their 1-0 lead lasted until the bottom of the fourth when Sam Houston finally began to mount some offense.
Wright came through with a two-outs single and then stole second. She later tied the game as she came home when Pence couldn't make a tough catch out in center.
The Lady Broncos then took the lead in the next inning as Marcella Myers led things off with an infield single that Hope Vezinat couldn't get to despite diving for it.
Myers was sent home by a Taylor Struther RBI single, and Konner Richard followed it up with a single of her own.
Sam Houston then took a 3-1 advantage after Wright came though with an infield RBI single that Heck couldn't corral with a diving attempt.
Dutchtown's best chance to cut into the lead came in the top of the sixth when Ali McCoy blasted a shot down the rightfield line. It looked like a sure double or possibly even a triple, but Madigan Eldridge ran it down and made a superb grab to thwart the Lady Griffin scoring threat.
In the top of the seventh, Dutchtown quickly went three up and three down as Pence grounded out to clinch the win for Sam Houston. It was their fourth state championship victory in five years.
From the circle, Wright gave up just five hits. From the plate, she went 2-3 with an RBI. She was the only player in the game to record multiple hits.
The Lady Griffins got their lone RBI from Pence as she went 1-3.
Both Wright and McCoy displayed tremendous control from the circle as amazingly, there was not a single walk.
Though Coach Ensminger wanted to bring home the Lady Griffins' first ever state title, she can't help but be overwhelmingly proud of what her team accomplished this year.
"I am so proud of them. We have a lot of seniors this year," Ensminger said. "They've been here before, and they're great leaders as far as bringing the underclassmen to this point. I couldn't be happier.
"I'm happy to be a Griffin tonight. And they're winners in my book--even if they came up short one game."
Dutchtown finished the season 26-9. With players like McCoy, Pence, Heck, Bailey Gileon and Rachel Newcomer all coming back next season, the Lady Griffins are hoping they can repeat this Sulphur run next year.
"I think this is a good lesson for us. Now they know how it feels to play at 7:00 on a Saturday night and hopefully, they want to reach that again," Ensminger said. "It's so hard to get to this point. There are a lot of teams that can say they've never been here."