They worked hard on and off the field, and as a result the Salt River Junior High Lady Eagles made their way up to the Charter Athletic Association (CAA) State Tournament. At the end of the hard-fought tournament, the Lady Eagles lost to Dobson Academy, 7-6, earning a very respectable finish as runners-up.
It was a very respectable finish when you consider that many of the girls learned how to play softball only once they signed up with the team. Their coach, Scott Cooper, had the girls do a lot of drills to get them ready for all their games, and surprisingly the girls all wanted to continue practices on Saturdays, even though they also practice all week.
“These girls were very eager to learn fast-pitch softball skills,” said Cooper. “They practiced their hitting and base-running skills. At the beginning, the main strength was pitching; we had two of the best pitchers through the whole season.”
Pitcher Celia Hicks threw about halfway through all of the games, with three other girls also pitching. By the end of the season, the girls turned out to be powerful hitters; there were about seven girls hitting the ball each game, which was better than only two or three hitting.
“We won the first two games of the semifinals and lost the championship 7-6 against Dobson Academy,” said Cooper. In the championship game, the Junior Lady Eagles started scoring first, with three runs in the first inning, and then the opposing team did the same thing. By the bottom of the sixth inning, the score was tied 6-6; in the last inning the Junior Lady Eagles didn’t score, but Dobson Academy came up to bat and made the winning run.
“It was a good game. A lot of the girls were nervous because they wanted to beat Dobson Academy; they had beat them before by one run, and that previous score was 7-6 too,” said Cooper.
This was the first time that Cooper has coached a junior-high softball team; prior to this he had coached little-league and adult-league softball.
“I didn’t know what to expect, because they were a little bit older than the young children I’ve worked with in the past,” said Cooper. “But they were a good group of girls. They listened and didn’t talk back. Also, usually at that age they start expressing their feeling to each other, so you see players on teams fighting among each other—but not these girls. They started with learning and progressed to the tournament. They had fun and worked very hard.”