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Lady Longhorns travel to Charleston to compete in girls' fast pitch tourney

The Johnson County Lady Longhorns traveled to Charleston, South Carolina last week to compete in the Girls Fast Pitch Azalea Invitational Tournament. Playing Monday and Tuesday at the Jerry Blackwell Sports Complex at Gahagan Park in the town of Summerville, the girls faced a lineup of strong teams from around the Southeast.
The Lady Longhorns ultimately played in five games over the two days, facing off against Coleton County, Fort Dorchester, Giles, Pinewood, and Landcaster High Schools.
In four of the five matches the girls fought hard but came up short, yet for Coach Dana Smith the opportunity to play such big talent was well worth the trip. “Overall I was pleased with us being able to play that caliber of competition. We had an opportunity to play a lot of defense and see a lot of different pitching which we don’t see here. All in all we learned what we could and could not do with the line up. We learned that if I move certain people around they do better. We went there with the intention of trying different things. We also got the opportunity to face a left-handed pitcher, which we haven’t done in over ten years, and we hit her pitches, too,” she said.
The Lady Longhorns actually arrived in Charleston over the weekend and were given the opportunity to play in several scrimmages on Saturday, where they performed very well. The actual tournament began with pool play on Monday, before entering into the actual tournament Tuesday. The teams were divided into three brackets, with Johnson County placed in the bronze bracket. With a win over Giles Tuesday morning, the Lady Longhorns ultimately came in second place in their division, losing to Fort Dorchester after a bad inning that set the girls behind and left them unable to catch back up.
“We allowed them to score way too many runs in that inning,” said Smith. “We fought back and had an opportunity to take control of the game, but we had dug such a hole we couldn’t pull it off. But we did play well. We played better in that game than we did against Pinewood, who was a private school. We lost to them. We went international tie break against Coleton County. We should have beaten them, and in my opinion we should have won that one more game.”
The game against Coleton was the last of the pool play on Monday and for players like Miranda Payne, the high South Carolina heat had begun to take its effect by the end of the day. “We should have won the last game, but we were getting tired. It was so hot down there it was hard to function. We played well, but the schools we played were vey intimidating. Compared to the conference here, the girls down there were a lot better than anything we’ve seen, especially the pitchers. Considering that, I think we did pretty well. It definitely won’t hurt us against any with the teams we play at home” said Payne.
Coach Smith was particularly troubled by the loss against Coleton, which ended in a one run loss. “We lost in the 8th inning basically, under international tie break with one run, and that was the end of the pool play. We had a bad inning in two of the games. The first game we lost 6-3 to Landcaster, and Landcaster played for the championship and lost one to nothing against Summerville. These teams were good and that’s why we went. We wanted to go there because we knew the teams were going to be tough. I’m not going to shy away from that, and never have.”
Despite the win/loss count, Smith was very pleased with her team’s final experience. “Overall we hit every pitcher, we hit in every game, and we scored in every game. That was the bright side. We didn’t quit, we scored in the last inning in several games. It was a great experience for us to be able to go there and do this as a team. They had time on the beach, time together as a team. They sat down and studied together; they did all the things that they were supposed to do. It just helped us to bring the team together.”
Final Scores: Johnson County 3, Landcaster 6
Johnson County 3, Pinewood 11
Johnson County 4, Coleton County 5
Johnson County 5, Giles 4
Johnson County 7, Fort Dorchester 10