HED:Lady Noles run out of gas in title game
By Bobby Pepper
The Talking Phone Book Lady Noles had the home-field advantage and strong fan support Sunday afternoon for the ASA Girls 18-and-Under Slowpitch national championship game in Tupelo.
Their opponent, Sports Med of Huntsville, Ala., had something much stronger the big first inning.
Sports Med scored 10 runs in the top of the first, opening the way for a 12-0 win in five innings over the Lee County host team for the national title at the Eastwood Softball Complex. It was Sports Med's second lopsided win over the Lady Noles on the tournament's final day.
After winning five games to guarantee their best finish in a national tournament, the Lady Noles had little left as they came out of the loser's bracket to reach the final.
"The girls played hard, but we just ran out of steam," said Eddie Armstrong, who along with Ronnie Thompson filled in for the coaches who had been with the team all season. "We had a great season. It's been a fun run."
The Lady Noles lost to Sports Med 14-3 in the winner's bracket final Sunday morning, but bounced back to edge Bryant Express (Ark.) 2-1 in the loser's bracket title game.
Sports Med head coach Mike Sublett said he thought the overwhelming home crowd was a factor in the Lady Noles' 11-8 win over one of the tournament's hardest-hitting teams, the Bobcats from Georgia. That winner's bracket game ended at 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
"They had so many fans out here, I knew we would be in trouble if we got behind," he said. "They probably had 200, 300 people here and we had about 15, 20 people."
The title game started with Sandi Ivy reaching first on a lead-off error. Sports Med then collected four straight hits and took advantage of another Lady Nole error to score seven times before the first out was made.
"We had to get out ahead early on them, and we did in both games," Sublett said. "We hit fair in our games, but our best two hitting games were against the Noles."
Eight of Sports Med's 13 hits came in the first inning. Allison Sellers, Amanda Newton, Jill James, Candace Campbell and Mel Sharp got two hits apiece to lead Sports Med.
The Lady Noles had 10 hits, but never could get a rally going. SueAne Dunnam, Amber Gardner and Kristi Andrews led the Noles with two hits apiece.
With only five players with national tournmanet experience, the Lady Noles played while their coaches this season Kristi Montgomery and Perry Wilburn watched from outside the field. The two, both high school coaches, were prohibited from coaching in the tournament by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
"I was very pleased with them in that they overcame the letdown of not being able to have the head coaches who had been with them all season," said Montgomery, who, along with Wilburn, was finally able to join the team on the field for the postgame award ceremony. "I feel like being on this field today is an honor considering we have five 15- and 16-year olds. I knew we would do well considering the number of talented athletes we have on the team."