The Orange Leader
LITTLE CYPRESS —
There is no question the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Lady Bears are having fun as far as reaching the Class 4A Region III “Final Four” goes but they also realize that they are just two series wins away from reaching the ultimate “Final Four.”
The Lady Bears (32-5) will face a stern test this week as they prepare to take on the Ridge Point Lady Panthers (31-7) in a best-of-three regional semifinal series.
Game One is Friday at 7 p.m. at Alvin High School. Game Two is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Port Arthur Memorial High School. Game Three, if necessary, will follow 30 minutes after Game Two.
The Lady Bears are coming off a dramatic 3-2 victory over District 20-4A rival Nederland in which Hope Russell drove in the winning two runs with a deep double with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. It was the first time the Lady Bears were tested in the postseason after they canned both Dayton and Huntsville in easy fashion.
“The Nederland win was so intense and draining,” said Lady Bear coach Dena Adkins. “It was a roller-coaster throughout that game but the kids pulled it out and I couldn’t be prouder of them. This is such a tested group that always seems to come through in the clutch. We celebrated that one for about a day and now it’s all about winning the next one. I enjoyed that win at Nederland so much and by the next day, I was stressing about Ridge Point. You gotta love the playoffs.”
The Lady Panthers, who are just in their second year of existence as far as playing varsity-level softball, went 27-9 last year to advance to the regional quarterfinals where they fell to Richmond Foster.
This season they went 13-1 to capture the District 22-4A title.
In the playoffs, Coach James McClanahan’s Lady Panthers have been in some nailbiters. They defeated Houston Davis 10-0. They then got past Angleton, losing the first game 4-1 before winning 7-3 and 10-5. They then held off Santa Fe in pitching duels 2-1 and 1-0.
“Ridge Point is a young team that has played some really good softball and have beaten some good teams along the way, especially in the playoffs,” said Adkins.
Just like Adkins, who can turn to two excellent pitchers in senior ace Raven Cole and junior Russell, McClanahan has two strong ones as well in junior Amber Grove and sophomore Kate Patel.
Grove has been the main starter throughout the year but Patel, much like Russell, enters at key moments to aid the cause. The two combined shutting down Santa Fe last week with Grove winning Game One and Patel taking Game Two.
“Pitching-wise, we’re both similar,” said Adkins. “Hitting-wise, that’s a whole different story about how each of us generate runs.”
The Lady Bears have certainly been known for their ferocious hitting, piling up a ton of doubles and home runs, led by the likes of Kassie James, Taylor Fraccastoro, Kaleigh Roy, Cole and Russell. They also have those talented hitters getting on in front of them like Mikaela Stegall, Chelsea McLain, Morgan Babineaux and Shelby LeBouef.
On the opposite end of the spectrum sits the Lady Panthers, who have hit just one home run all season. However, don’t let that fool you.
Ridge Point is definitely built on speed led by the sister duo of Syndi and Cortni Emanuel, who have both committed to Texas Tech University.
“They are trouble when they get on the bases,” said Adkins. “Everyone in their lineup is capable of stealing bases. They may not hit for power, but they’re all good slap-hitters that are patient. We’ve got to get ahead in the count and make them earn it. They may look like a young team on paper but they’re sound in everything that they do.”
The LC-M-Ridge Point winner will face either Elgin or Richmond Foster in the Region III Finals next week. Elgin and Foster will play a three-game series Friday and Saturday at Bryan High School.