The Grace Academy Lady Golden Eagle softball team reached the summit last spring when they won the Class A state title in Murfreesboro, but they've replaced several key seniors with four starters who are eighth graders and their youthfulness was evident Tuesday afternoon in the season opener against Central.
Granted, Central has a pretty good team as they are veterans at the plate, but they made it look especially easy at Grace as they collected 16 hits en route to a 12-1 five-inning victory.
Central has three seniors on its team and they're the first three hitters in the lineup. Coach LeeAnne Shurette has put them there for a reason as she knows they are the sparkplugs behind Central's offense.
That was certainly the case on Tuesday.
Shortstop Brook Womack is the ring leader who leads off. She made life miserable for the Lady Golden Eagles as she reached base all four times up and scored three runs.
Leftfielder Brooke Eller bats second. She was equally as effective as she had three straight hits in four at-bats and finished with three runs scored.
Catcher Hannah Powell is third and is probably the strongest hitter on the team. She only had one hit, but she drove in three runs and hit a couple of foul balls that would have been long home runs had they stayed fair.
The Lady Pounders didn't waste any time taking charge in this one as they scored three times in the first before adding three more in the second.
A six-run fourth was the back breaker as 11 Lady Pounders came to bat. Womack had a pair of doubles as Central had five hits in the inning, including a two-run single by Lexie Ainslie.
Losing pitcher Maddy Horton drove in the only run for Grace with a third-inning double. Sierra Nunley led off with a bunt single and went to second when Stephanie Hernandez walked before scoring on Horton's line shot to left.
Winning pitcher Chasidy Ainslie allowed four hits while walking two and allowing the one run. She appeared to get stronger as the game progressed as she retired the final six Grace hitters in order.
"I'm just glad we got to play today after the way it rained on Monday," said Shurette after the game was called in five innings.
"A lot of people contributed today, but we came out and were aggressive at the plate. We had to make a few adjustments, but that worked out well too, but I thought that Chasidy pitched a good game. She appeared to get stronger the longer she pitched.
"Those first three are my only seniors and they do a great job getting on base and making things happen, but it's nice to get this first game behind us," she added.
Grace coach Tina Walker knows that the process is starting all over for her and her team, but she has total confidence that all will be fine eventually.
"We're really young as we're starting all over again with four eighth graders starting. Our number one pitcher Tori Helton is hurt, but Maddy does the best she can.
"As long as they keep improving, we'll be fine. I have all the confidence in the world in them, but they have to develop a little confidence in themselves.
"Central is a really good hitting team and they proved it today, but we'll be fine," Walker added.
Womack's three hits were tops for Central while Eller, Chasidy Ainslie and Britney Sylvester all had two apiece.
Alex Smith was the only Grace player with two hits while Horton's double and Nunley's bunt single were the other two.
Both teams return to action on Thursday with Central hosting defending D-II state champ Baylor. Grace takes on Brainerd at Warner Park.
Central 330 60 -- 12 16 0
Grace 001 00 -- 1 4 4
Ainslie and Powell; Horton and Brittany Mc.
(email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)