Josh Joiner wasn’t happy with the outcome of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against Cook High in which his East Hall softball team was swept in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs. He was, however, excited with what it shows for the future.
The Lady Vikings (19-13) fell in the opening game 5-2 before dropping a six-inning, 13-5 walk-off decision in Game 2.
Two weeks to the day of East Hall claiming its first-ever softball region championship, the Lady Vikings’ deepest playoff run came to a close. Joiner was able to get his team to make history in a year where he had only two seniors and two juniors. East Hall had a freshmen-heavy program with six ninth graders.
“I told the girls that what they’ve done is create an expectation,” Joiner said. “Now it’s not fun and games if we get to the playoffs. Now it’s, ‘We’re going to get to the playoffs, now we just have to move on to the next step.’ That’s the future.”
After three innings in the second contest on Wednesday, the Lady Vikings were down 12-1 to Cook with a seven-run first inning bolstering the big score. Joiner said he didn’t say anything to his team to try to get them to keep fighting.
“Sometimes, for pride, you’ve just got to keep working,” Joiner said. “They were embarrassed a little bit. I knew that, so there’s nothing really I needed to say. That was all on them. If they wanted to quit and be done, they were going to do that and they didn’t.”
East Hall picked up a run in the top of the fourth as Steffanie Redmon (2 for 3, 3 RBI, run scored) hit a one-out solo home run.
In the fifth, Peyton Turner was hit by a pitch. She was eventually brought around to score on an illegal pitch.
Back-to-back two-out walks to Carley Cox and Jennifer Lopez knocked Cook starting pitcher Ansley Paulk from the game and brought in Game 1 starter Lexie Walker.
When Walker gave a free pass to the next batter, East Hall catcher Abigail Brown, before giving up a two-run single to Redmon. The hit cut the lead to 12-5.
The Lady Vikings were able to get runners into scoring position in the sixth, but were unable to add another run to their tally.
In the bottom of the frame, a one-out walk from Macy Banks to Cook right fielder Rodrica Styles came back to haunt the Lady Vikings.
Styles stole second base before a groundout put her at third. With two outs, center fielder Claire Dobson delivered an infield single to score Syles, sealing the game and the series.
Following the game, Joiner said he thanked his seniors for getting the program started on a bright future.
“I’m proud of the seniors for getting that started for us and hopefully getting us on a run of region championships and playoff runs,” Joiner said. “Now we’re not going to be super happy to (just) get here next year. We’re going to be super happy when we get to the next round next year.
“That’s where we’re headed.”
COOK 5, EAST HALL 2 (GAME 1): The Lady Vikings got on the board first with Cox (2 for 4, run scored) reaching on an error as the leadoff batter in the bottom of the first inning. She scored two batters later on an error by the first baseman.
The Lady Hornets tied it up in the top of the second on a double from Ansley Paulk, which was followed by singles from Tomi Rhai Richardson and Alex Taunton (2 for 3, RBI, run scored).
East Hall allowed four runs in the top of the fifth on four hits, including a two-run single followed by a two-run triple.
In the bottom of the frame, Katie Wilson came around to score on a single from Macy Banks (1 for 4, RBI).
“We’re not going to stop where we’re at and be complacent,” Joiner said. “We’re going to keep pushing. That’s the goal.”