Black and yellow versus red and white; Wildcats versus Redskins.
No matter how you size it up, they all correlate into one conclusion: Richmond Hill versus Bryan County. These two cross-county rivals squared off against each other once again on Aug. 12 in a pre-season scrimmage in preparation for the 2008 girls’ high school softball season which gets underway Aug. 15.
With three seniors on the rosters between the two county schools, the young Lady Cats and Lady Skins found themselves not only battling each other, but their own first-game jitters as well.
Bryan County came away with a 7-4 victory, but there was more to look at then just the final score. Head coaches Alex Gray (Richmond Hill) and Al Butler (Bryan County) both face similar challenges as they head into regular season play. Both are manning their positions for the very first year and both are fielding a very young team. Both coaches also were anxious to see how their girls would handle the game day mentality. No better way to do that than with an opening contest against your rival school.
"We started five freshmen today and I think some of them were mentally overwhelmed," Butler said. "There were a lot of pre-game jitters and silence before the game and that kind of surprised me. I know our girls were ready and anxious to play - especially against their rival school. Take away that first inning where we scored six runs and we were in trouble because Richmond Hill stayed with us inning for inning after that. I don’t know if we relaxed when we got that lead or what, but something distracting was going on in their heads."
Tiffany Howard took the mound for the Lady Skins against Stephanie Ortiz for Richmond Hill. Bryan County scratched across six runs in the first inning against Ortiz before Ortiz was replaced by freshman Lauren Simerly, who came in and finished strong on the mound for the Lady Cats.
Richmond Hill finally got on the board in the top of the third inning when Simerly pounded a two-run double to cut the score to 6-2. Simerly had the only extra base hit of the game for either team. Bryan County picked up their seventh and final run in the bottom of the fourth. Richmond Hill brought home one more run in the fifth.
"As always, you want to win, but today wasn’t so much about the final score as it was about finding out more about your team," Gray said. "This game today doesn’t give me cause for concern one bit. We are a young squad, but we have talent. Our girls played hard and stayed upbeat and that is what I wanted to see. I am excited about the season and looking for great things from them. I do feel we had some first game jitters out there today. Pitcher Stephanie Ortiz has a broken nose and I think she was somewhat apprehensive starting out with her pitching, but I am very proud of the way Lauren Simerly came in and pitched the rest of the game for us. Our girls fought back and never gave up and that is what impressed me the most."
Bryan County produced seven hits in the contest from the bats of Tiffany Howard, Samantha Howard, Jerry Hines, Rebecca Strickland, Sierra Newman, and Bridgett Bacon, who picked up two hits in the contest. The Lady Cats were led at the plate by senior Melanie Goolsby who stroked three singles and scored two runs. Kayla Herring followed closely with a two-hit performance and Cheyenne Marsh, Lauren Simerly, and Kaitlyn Delong each had a hit.
"Overall, I know we are ready to play and I’m glad we won," Butler said. "We’ll sit down with the girls and try to get their mind on the right track. I would have like to have seen more hits and more putting the ball in play. We have had some of the best practices these last few days, so I know the girls were ready to play."