Some teams tune up for the postseason with an intrasquad scrimmage. Some opt for extra batting practice, or maybe even an extra day off.
East Hamilton head coach Cara Stiles, not content with running the District 6-AA table during the regular season, has scheduled some of the tougher non-league foes available to prepare for the big push.
Tuesday's Senior Day put a bow on the district race with a shutout of Tyner. But Wednesday's Senior Day Plus One was a superb way for the two Lady Hurricane 12th graders -- Shaliyah Geathers and Maria Walshe -- to cap their home careers. Thanks to what ultimately was an unnecessary postponement of Monday's game with Walker Valley, the 5-AAA champion Lady Mustangs visited Wednesday instead.
Geathers had a pair of hits and Walshe shut down a somewhat gimpy Walker Valley lineup to hand the visitors only their fourth loss of the season, 4-1.
"Our girls came out ready today," Stiles said afterwards. "Maria did a great job against a good-hitting team. She seems to enjoy working the count to hitters, but she gets the job done."
The first six innings Wednesday were all East Hamilton, but one of the Lady Mustangs' worst defensive starts all year hurt. The Lady 'Canes scored their first two runs on a play that included two Walker Valley errors, but Rachel Gamble made sure the opportunity was not wasted with an RBI double to make the lead 3-0.
In the second, a walk and yet another Walker Valley error set the table, and a Geathers RBI single put the home team in control, 4-0. But Walker Valley right-hander Alicia Raymond escaped further damage by leaving the bases loaded and the game settled into a tight struggle. But inning after inning, the East Hamilton defense showcased itself in what turned out to be an errorless performance.
"I've been working with our outfielders a lot lately on their defense," Stiles said. "They've caught on how important it is to read the ball off the bat, to make their first break on the ball count. Geathers in center has been dazzling all year, but Gamble in right and Brie Levy has been one of the team's most improved players in left.
But Walker Valley's season has been built in part by comeback efforts, and there was one forthcoming Wednesday. It started with a bang -- specifically, A.J. Chauncey's leadoff homer over the left field fence. While the shot energized the Lady Mustang bench, Walshe kept her focus. Got a harmless pop fly for the first out, but Raymond cracked a double. Walshe generated a strikeout, but Lara Bean's single brought the tying run to the plate.
Walshe capped the day with her third strikeout and lifted the East Hamilton record to 15-12 going into another one of those "tuneup" games today, against tough Baylor. Stines said she never gave any thought to pulling her starter.
"She's gotten us this far," the coach said.
District 6-AA Tournament
This year's event is a traveling show, with all first-round games scheduled to be played Saturday at White Oak Field before moving to Warner Park Monday. The top-seeded Lady Hurricanes get a first-round bye and play their first postseason game on Monday.
Walker Valley 000 000 0 -- 1 6 4
East Hamilton 310 000 x -- 4 10 0
Raymond and Chauncey; Walshe and Brooks. Highlights: Chancey (WV) HR, RBI; Geathers (EH) 2H, RBI; Gamble 2H (2B), RBI. Records: Walker Valley 24-4; East Hamilton 15-12-2.