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Dixie Scores Early & Hangs On To Nip Lake View 7-6 For Third Class A Softball Title Under Gary Stone

Dixie Scores Early & Hangs On To Nip Lake View 7-6 For Third Class A Softball Title Under Gary Stone

By Billy G. Baker


Columbia—With Dixie and Lake View featuring talented 7th grade pitchers, with loads of underclassmen talent around them, fans of these two Class A softball programs can expect many more 7-6 type title games in the coming years as Dixie won the third game of the series at River Bluff High on May 17.

“We didn’t find out just how big that grand slam (Mackenzie Freeman) was until near the end of the game when they came back, but it was huge,” said Dixie head coach Gary Stone. “In just about every game we’ve played in the playoffs we have one inning a game where we struggle to play good defense and we give up a lot of runs and I am just thankful we were able to hang on and win this game.

“Bug (Brown) did a great job in the circle even though we booted a few balls behind her and I talked to her a lot in the dug-out to keep her settled down after they got those four runs,” said Coach Stone. “She went back out there, calmed down, and she focused on having a strong finish. In all three games in the championship series she threw between 112 and 115 pitches and even though she was tired she held on.”

Dixie has now won Class A titles under Stone in 2014, 2016 and now 2019. In 2018 they were not in the finals, but they were runners-up in 2013, 2015, and 2017.  “We are 3-3 in the finals since 2013 and this one feels really special,” said Coach Stone. “This team has not quit all year and we have faced some adversity. I was worried when Lake View got back in the game that the team might quit but they didn’t and that makes me very proud of them.  We kept answering every time they rallied with out own rally.”

Coach Stone gave a shout-out to departing senior starters Mackenzie Freeman, a first baseman, and right fielder Arianna Kingbaum. “They both got great hits today and Arianna just started playing softball in the 9th grade and she has developed into an outstanding right fielder. Both seniors have had a huge impact on our program. We’ll be talking about Mackenzie’s grand slam for a long time.”

Coach Stone senses a true state finals rivalry developing between Dixie and Lake View over the next few years. “Both of our teams have several freshman starting and we are both real young with a lot of talented players, so I would not be surprised at all if we meet Lake View again next year in the finals. You just can’t assume that you are going to be back, so you just have to appreciate it when you are here and hope that you are playing your best softball at the time.”

Seventh grade pitcher Caylee Bug Brown told the HSSR after the game, “I am just so grateful to be a part of this amazing team with fantastic coaches and teammates and I am so excited that we won a state title. I grew up admiring my older sister (Ashley) who was a pitcher and that influenced me to pitch also. My long-range goal is to play college softball at Florida after high school.”            

Lake View head coach Brandy Huggins commented after the game.   “We got down early and then we battled back, and I am proud of the girls for not giving up and they kept battling all game,” she said. “When they got up by five they could have come off the field and said game over, but they didn’t.   We kept battling and made it a very competitive game.

“We made some miscues in the game on defense and we came back and made some awesome plays on defense late (King & Miller) in the game that were really awesome,” said Coach Huggins. “I could not be prouder of the girls and the hard work and effort they all put into the season.

“I have three great assistant coaches and they hit balls to the girls every day in practice and I could not do it without their help,” said Coach Huggins. “We all coach as one group doing all we can to develop our players.  We work the girls hard in practice and they respond well. Our hard work in practice yesterday showed up today but we just came up a little short. We will be working hard on getting back to the finals next year.”    

Dixie struck for a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Lauryn Foster doubled in courtesy runner Ashton Crocker who was running for Bug Brown who reached on a walk. Foster made it to third on the throw to the plate as Crocker scored. Foster plated Dixie’s second run on a throwing error.

The Hornets made it 3-0 in the bottom of the third when Weselyn Bensel reached on a single and went to second when the next batter Alex Taylor also singled. Mackenzie Freeman then hit a grounder that was thrown wide of first base allowing Bensel to score the Hornets third run.

At this point Lake View head coach Brandy Huggins made a pitching change and brought in sophomore Grace Floyd to replace starting pitcher Raven Locklear. Floyd struck out CayleeBugBrown and got Makinsie Ware to fly-out to end the inning.

Just when Dixie thought they had a comfortable 3-0 lead the Wild Gators came up with a two-spot in the top of the fourth. Baylee Arnette drew a lead-off walk and Kaylee Herlong’s bunt was air-mailed past the first baseman to put runners on first and second for Lake View.  Then Malaysia Wheeler drew a walk to load the bases. Alex Elilott then singled in Arnette for the Wild Gator’s first run. Kystan Jame’s SAC fly brought in Lake View’s second run.

In the bottom of the fourth Dixie sent 8 batters to the plate, scoring four runs on three hits (one being a grand slam by Freeman) and two walks.  Arianna Krigbaum singled and Bensel and Taylor drew consecutive two out walks.  Then Freeman made a lasting memory with a towering grand slam home run over the left field fence that stirred bedlam in the fans from Dixie as she circled the bases with her right arm pumping proud and hard.

Now down 7-2 the Wild Gators came back in the 5th with four runs to cut the deficit to the final score 7-6. Lake View sent 9 batters to the plate producing two singles, a double and scoring on an error. Bailey Miller led off with an infield single and then Spivey Evans singled to put runners on first and second. Both runners moved up to second and third on a passed ball. Herlong hit a ball to shallow center field that was dropped scoring Miller. Two more runs scored on a double by Elliott and the fourth run came in on a throwing error.  

In the 6th Locklear led off with a single for Lake View and Evans reached on a bunt with one-out. However, pitcher Bug Brown got the next two batters to ground- out and fly-out to end the potential scoring opportunity as Lake View stranded two runners.

In the bottom of the 6th it appeared Dixie was going to add at least one insurance run as Bensel tagged a double to the power alley. Taylor then hit a line drive deep that looked like it was going to drop in, but Emma King laid out and made a diving catch at grass level. The final out of the inning was made by Lake View center fielder Bailey Miller who ran down a deep line drive headed for the center field fence, but she made a leaping over the shoulder catch for the final out of the inning.  

In Lake View’s final bat Brown got three straight ground-outs from Lake View hitters to preserve the one run state title win.  

The top hitters for Lake View with two hits each included Locklair, Miller, and Elliott. Evans and King had one hit each. Dixie was led at the plate by Bensel who collected three hits and Freeman who had one home run and four RBI’s. Taylor, Brown, Foster, and Kingbaum each had a hit.

Bug Brown worked seven innings in the circle striking out four and allowing 8 hits.  

© 2017 High School Sports Report

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