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East Texas Thunder takes fifth
Monitor Staff Reports
BROWNWOOD–Battling back from an early-round loss, the Mabank-based East Texas Thunder took fifth place in the Texas Teenage Softball state playoffs in Brownwood last weekend.
Before heading to the state softball tournament, the East Texas Thunder fastpitch softball team, compiled of Mabank, Malakoff and Kemp high school players, completed an undefeated 10-0 regular season to capture the East Texas Piney Woods championship and a state tournament berth.
During the regular season, the Thunder competed against teams from Athens, Alba-Golden and Jacksonville, outscoring their opponents 50-20 in league play.
“These ladies have come together from three different towns and put their rivalries aside to accomplish far more than expected,” head coach Scott Tuley noted. “Some have played against each other for the last five years.”
In Brownwood Thursday, July 12, the Thunder were matched in pool play against teams from Coleman (the Lady Blues) and Hico (Lady Kats). The East Texas Thunder won both pool contests, 5-0 and 3-0, respectively.
Friday, the Thunder was scheduled to face the winner of the Bosqueville-Hawley game that evening.
Butterflies rose and nerves kicked in, and the Thunder was creamed for the first time by Bosqueville, 13-1.
“In the outfield, we considered what happened to us tonight would remain in the outfield, and be a reminder to just show how good are we,” Tuley said.
The girls faced a must-win situation against the Hamlin Tuff Stuff, but had to sit through a four-hour rain delay before beginning the contest.
The team rebounded, taking down a good Tuff Stuff team 21-1 to continue play in the championship bracket.
Back at the campsite, the Thunder prepared to face a “hometown” team in the Early Studberry Muffins.
“I told the team they were going to have to take everything they wanted, because the close calls were not ours, the strike zone would not be ours, so we needed to hit, run and score,” Tuley said.
In a seven-inning nail-biter, the Thunder defeated the Muffins 2-0.
As the clock rolled toward midnight, it was the Eastland Lady Red’s chance to take down the Thunder, with both teams having to play back-to-back games.
Early on, Eastland looked to be in control, forging a 4-0 lead until the sixth inning, when some Thunder parents took over behind, beside, or in the dugout to motivate the team.
The Thunder responded with a stirring come-from-behind 6-4 victory as time ran out, putting them into the finals Sunday.
At 10 Sunday morning, the Thunder came to the ball fields tired, sluggish, bruised and bleeding from the night before, facing the last six teams from the 22-team tournament field.
The Thunder faced another “hometown” team in the Brownwood Lady Lions.
Brownwood forged a 3-0 lead over the Thunder, but in the top of the seventh inning, the Thunder woke up, and tied the contest at 3-3.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Lions loaded the bases and scored a run to end the game and end the Thunder’s state championship hopes.
“From where we started to where we finished, I would have never thought a team could come to together like this team has and finish fifth in the state out of 35 teams,” Tuley said.
“Looking back, the only two teams we lost to all year were the state champs and the runner-up state champs,” Tuley pointed out.
“The ladies fought hard, played hurt, motivated themselves, took motivation from others. We were one of two towns representing East Texas (along with Alba-Golden),” he added. “We finished 19-2 overall.”
Tuley offered thanks to the girls’ parents for their support of the kids and the coaching staff.
“Also, we would like to thank Tidy Toilets and Teague Chevrolet for helping take the East Texas Thunder to the next level,” he said.
“Last but not least, we want to thank the ladies of the East Texas Thunder for believing in yourselves,” he said. “Believing that with work, discipline and practices in 90-degree heat, you can do anything you want if you apply a little effort.”
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