Sweeping the series


Photo provided by: Sloan Marcelle Photography

In a long anticipated series of games against Lakewood Ranch High School, the Lady Patriots swept the series, taking down the number one team in the state. “It’s hard to single out any one girl,” Stanley said. “Beating a team like Lakewood takes all 15 girls on the roster. In that series we collected 25 hits and scored 16 runs, every starter collected at least one hit. That allowed Hannah and Gabbie to pitch with confidence. All of that combined with great defense. I think I have to call that series a total team effort.”

Makayla Martindale, Sports Editor

With a constantly revolving mix of teams in the Extra Elite 80 national high school softball team rankings throughout the season, the top 10 experienced major changes as the varsity softball team beat the previously number one ranked team, Lakewood Ranch High School. On Wednesday Mar. 23, the Lady Patriots played Lakewood Ranch at home and run-ruled them 11 to zero, which was their first loss of the season. On Thursday Mar. 24, the Lady Patriots traveled down to Lakewood Ranch High School and, in a nail-biter, won five to three. Because the Lady Patriots swept the series, they were ranked as number one in the state, pushing Lakewood Ranch down to number nine. 

Going into such a high pressure series of games can be overwhelming, as the girls are met with high expectations, but first year varsity coach, Jacob Stanley, has worked to ensure the girls are entirely equipped to handle the stress. 

“We prepare for every team in different ways, since different teams offer us different obstacles,” Stanley said. “I told our girls before the game that a moment was going to come where it felt like Lakewood was going to take over and they needed to be prepared to face adversity. Fortunately, that moment came early and gave us time to answer, so the motivation began when Lakewood went up three to zero in the first inning. In that moment, we had to find a way to answer and rise to the challenge, and the girls did just that.”

While the wins over Lakewood Ranch were a complete team effort, there were multiple plays that allowed the Lady Patriots to come out on top.

“There are two moments in that series standout to me,” Stanley said. “The first came in the second inning of game one when Madison Conway hit a sacrifice fly to score Addison Martindale and put us up one to zero. That put us ahead early in the game and series, which allowed us to take a deep breath and just play. The second came when Kiley Strott hit the walk-off homerun in the sixth inning to finalize the run rule in game one. That gave us total confidence in driving down to Lakewood and sweeping the series.”

This season featured significant changes for the team, as the prior head coach transferred schools, bringing a fresh face to the organization.

“Our dynamic has done a full 360,” senior and co-captain Ella Christopher said. “We all have each other‘s back and lift each other up. We have never had a team this close here at Brantley, we are all really turning into a family.”

Because of this newfound team culture, all of the girls — freshmen to seniors — have been able to create an abundance of friendships, which has allowed the team to not only grow closer, but also perform better on the field.

“As a freshman, I was a little nervous coming to play with the seniors, but I have improved by making some new and unlikely friendships,” freshman Jaiden Griffith said. “I have also had to become more independent and confident in my abilities than I was before.”

Despite the pressure that the team has to maintain their ranking, the long term goal is winning the state championship.

“It is important our girls understand what our end goal is,” Stanley said. “Being number one in the state is an awesome title that they have worked hard to earn, but our goal is to win a state championship. Our girls know in order to do that we need to win every inning of every game until the last week of May. They know they are going to get everyone’s best along the way and I think they are excited for the challenge.”