Marion C. Early softball coach Mike McHolland knew his team would face a challenge Wednesday, Sept. 4.
After winning twice Saturday, Aug. 31, in the preliminary rounds of the Morrisville Tournament, the Class 1 Lady Panthers squared off against Class 4 West Plains in the title game, falling 12-0 in five innings.
Marion C. Early beat Hartville’s JV team 9-2 and Parkview 12-1 Saturday to advance to the title game in its home tournament.
“We knew it was going to be a tough test,” McHolland said after the game. “We learned a lot about our team today. We told our girls we want to get better and improve on this each day through the year and into districts.”
West Plains scored every inning of the run-ruled game, dropping 2 points in the first, 2 in the second, 4 in the third, 2 in the fourth and 2 in the fifth.
McHolland said a series of costly mistakes helped seal the loss. The team’s defense will need to work to support starting sophomore pitcher Hannah Brisley, who was 13-1 as a freshman last year and pitched both of the team’s tournament wins Saturday, he said.
“We’ve got to be better on defense behind Hannah,” he said. “We can’t make the six or seven errors we made today against a good team.”
Offensively, McHolland said he still saw flickers of light, despite the team’s shutout. MCE batters connected on hits but struggled to get through the bases as the West Plains defense clamped down tight.
“We hit the ball hard today, but they made some good plays behind their pitcher,” McHolland said.
Despite a subdued performance Wednesday, McHolland said third baseman Nettie Wiggins was an offensive force for the team Saturday, batting in six runs and going 5-6 at the plate.
In between tournament matches, MCE played Hermitage Tuesday, Sept. 3, winning 22-1.
The Lady Panthers next face Seymour at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, in Morrisville before competing in the Walnut Grove tournament Friday through Saturday, Sept. 13-14.
“We’ve got to learn from our mistakes,” McHolland said. “We’ve got a very competitive schedule. We’ve got to come with our ‘A’ game against everybody.”
Looking ahead, McHolland said the objective remains a strong showing at the district tournament. The Lady Panthers last year claimed a district crown before exiting the postseason with a sectionals loss to Weaubleau. He said the team is overall younger this year than last year.
“We’re seeing growing pains early in the year,” he said. “We’ll get better. I told the girls to learn from their mistakes today, to get better and get ready for districts. It starts tomorrow at practice.”