Sherman's Jordan Lewis is tagged out by Man's Madison Keffer.
BUFFALO, W.Va. - Sherman's best quality was on display Thursday evening.The Tide clawed and scratched its way to a 7-6 victory over Man in the opening game of pool play in the Class A division of the 15th annual Best of the Best Softball Classic at the Buffalo Softball Complex. Sherman carried over that momentum into its second game and shut out Wahama 10-0 in three innings behind Kylie Wells' one-hit shutout."We pulled it together,'' beamed Sherman senior pitcher Tori May about the come-from-behind win over Man. "We have a habit of getting down. If [the opponent starts] scoring we just stop."We fought and we've been doing better about that. We're going to play as hard as we can. We [used to] just get down on ourselves and stop playing [when our opponent would take the lead]. We would lie down and let the other team beat us. Not anymore. We're fighting now.'' After falling behind 4-0 after a first inning that saw two errors, Sherman's Taylor Hendricks cranked a one-out, two-run home run to left field in the second inning as the Tide seized the momentum and sliced its deficit in half to 4-2.Hendricks' shot gave the Tide the confidence it would need as Sherman scored five runs in the third to take the lead for good at 7-4. Sherman capitalized on Man's two errors in the frame, which led to a pair of runs, and the Tide's Jordan Lewis added the final blow with a two-out, two-run single.It still wasn't easy for Sherman, which had to hold on in a wild bottom of the seventh for the victory. After the Hillbillies' Kelly Grimmett popped out to first base, the intensity was ratcheted up a few notches when teammates Summer Sword and Cari Blair followed with back-to-back singles to put runners at first and second.
Madison Ketter followed with a run-scoring single as Man closed to 7-5. May then compounded the situation by hitting the Hillbillies' Tabitha Ferguson with the first pitch to load the bases.May, though, forced Man's Taylor Tomblin to pop out to second, but Emilee Osborne coaxed a walk to force in a run as the Hillbillies pulled within 7-6 with two outs. May, who has been battling back issues, bore down and struck out Man's Mikayla Gibson on three pitches to end the game.Sherman has been quietly putting together one of its best seasons, which so far has produced an 12-4 record and a No. 4 ranking in this week's state sports writers' poll.The Tide defeated Man, a perennial state-tournament contender, for the second time this season by one run. If all goes well, the Tide would meet Man (8-3), which received votes in this week's poll, again in the postseason in a few weeks.
Sherman coach Jim Henderson is hoping that the top-notch competition at the Best of the Best will force his players to see how important it is to play their best every inning and not just flip the switch on and off when they need a boost."Unfortunately, it was almost like we turned that switch off as soon as we got a lead,'' said Henderson, who has been the Tide's coach since the softball program began about 20 years ago. "We never really did hit the ball with a nice stroke after that."[The Hillbillies] gave themselves a chance to win, and fortunately our defense held up. I definitely feel we're capable of more. I still don't think we're playing up to my expectations. I know we can be much better. We still haven't reached that level that I think we can. I'm still waiting for them to get to that point.''The Tide returns seven starters from last year's squad, and May said that familiarity is a big plus.
"We're starting to jell as a team,'' she said. "The whole infield is the same except for first base. We know each other's skills. Lately, we've been getting a lot more consistent. I think we're capable of being state champions if we play to our full potential.''The Tide isn't strangers to success. As 9- and 10-year-olds, most of the seven starters played on the Boone Northern All-Stars squad they advanced to the Little League state tournament. Sherman has only advanced to the regional finals three times (2003-04 and 2008)."I feel like it's our time,'' said Tide junior shortstop Baylee Harless, who went 5 for 6 with two doubles and an RBI on Thursday. "We've grown up together and we play really well together. I think we need to play hard and not come out expecting to win like we do sometimes.''Paige Halstead rapped out a pair of hits and scored twice for Sherman while May persevered in the circle, surrendering six runs (four earned) on 11 hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Man's Blair finished 4 for 4 with an RBI while Summer Sword banged out two hits, including a triple, and scored twice, and Osborne had a pair of hits and drove in a run.Sherman and St. Marys both own 2-0 records in pool play, which resumes for Class A at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Best of the Best continues today with a combined Class AAA-AA division at 2:30 p.m. (See Page 2B for results and schedule.)Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.