ITALY — In the same vein of its basketball and football brethren, Italy softball is out to prove a point and make a statement.
Battles in the cities of Italy and Frost – regardless of sport – have been an epic testament to the sometimes undiscovered talent that exists at the 2A level.
The Lady Gladiators and Lady Polar Bears first district installment, which resulted in an 11-1 finish Friday night at Johnny Jones Field, didn't disappoint.
"Over the last few years, Frost and Italy have battled back and forth for the district title. We knew it would be a tough game because they are a very good team and well coached," said Tina Richards, the head softball coach at Italy High School. "It was important to us to focus on taking care of business at home. It was also a special win because the girls dedicated the game to a member of our extended softball family, who was just diagnosed with cancer."
Though the Lady Polar Bears entered the game with an unblemished record, ten total hits and a game-changing fourth-inning triple from Alex Jones made sure Rana Ramirez got her game day wish. Ramirez was diagnosed with triple negative cancer last week.
April Lusk, Brycelen Richards and Jenna Holden each hit doubles and Jones and Richards had 3 RBI. Holden added a pair of RBI to the Lady Gladiator total.
Holden, the game's winning pitcher, did her part, too. She had five strikeouts and one unearned run.
"Jenna has found her rhythm in the circle and our defense has been solid behind her," Richards said. "Offensively, we have taken advantages of scoring opportunities. With April, Taylor (Boyd), Brycelen and Jenna at the top of our lineup, we've been able to generate runs. The bottom of our lineup — with Elizabeth Garcia and Hannah Carr — sets table for the top."
Though she tipped her proverbial cap to the offense, she laid as heavy praise on that of her run-stopping defense. The Lady Gladiator offense has scored 95 runs during their eight-game win streak while allowing only 10 over the same stretch.
Two of their last four opponents — Blum and Kopperl High Schools — went scoreless in 13 innings.
"Defensively, Brooke DeBorde made several good plays at third base and Karley (Nelson), who has taken over second base, is performing well," Richards said. "Alex Jones, who is a freshman playing a new position at catcher has made an impact offensively and defensively. DeCorea's (Green) leaping catch in left field to end a Frost rally helped, too."
The Lady Gladiators will charge into the last leg of their district schedule when they face Covington High School at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday at CHS Softball Field.
Though Italy is on the cusp of earning its second undefeated district title in three years, Richards said it's the trip 166 miles south that truly matters.
"Our goal is to win every time we step on the field," she said. "A lot of the girls experienced an undefeated district title two years ago and they understand that an undefeated title means a lot to our school and community. Ultimately, the goal for this team goes beyond the district title —making a trip to Austin. That is what the girls are focused on."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI