By Johnny Avant
WATER VALLEY – After a 7-0 start to the season, finishing as runner-up in the division, and an 11-6 regular season record, the Water Valley Lady Devils’ season came to an end last weekend after dropping two games to the Nettleton Lady Tigers.
Nettleton, ranked number one in the state, came in to the series with a 20-2 record. The Lady Devils faced their toughest pitcher of the year, Michelle Hester, who came to Water Valley with a 17-0 record. Hester’s ERA was 0.64, she had only allowed 2 hits per game, held her opponents to a .122 batting average, struck out 62 on the year and had not given up a homerun.
In the first game, the Lady Devils were not intimidated and came out swinging their bats. Brianna Thompson and Haley Vance each picked up hits in the first inning. Mallory Washington had a single in the second; Kelsey Kimzey added one in the fourth, while Ashley Phillips hit the first homerun of the season off of Hester in the fifth.
Water Valley put the ball in play 18 times against Hester and batted .250 as a team against one of the best pitchers in the state. Hester, with 62 strikeouts on the year, only managed to strike out one of the Lady Devils in the first game.
As well as the Lady Devils swung their bats, Nettleton’s defense did not let runners cross the plate. Water Valley lost the first game 13-1 and the second 10-0. Their season came to an end with an 11-8 record.
As their season came to an end, so did coach Shane Brown’s time as head coach of the Lady Devils. Due to the financial situation at Water Valley, Coach Brown will not be back next season. He was honored by his players at the last home game and the following was written and read by Water Valley junior Kelsey Kimzey:
“As some of you know, because of our schools financial situation, our coach, Shane Brown, will not be with us next year.
“Tonight is the last home regular season game and our team wanted to take this opportunity to tell him what he meant to us. Coach Brown started with us four years ago. Ashley (Phillips), Anna (True), and I (Kelsey Kimzey), were eighth graders.
“To say the least, we were a team of beginners, most of us not knowing much about the game of softball. In fact the first tournament we played, in Tupelo, I could tell Coach Brown probably wondered ‘what have I gotten myself into?’.
“But he never gave up on us. With a lot of hard work and practice, we went from a team that had only won two games in its history, to a team that won a division championship in his first year. Under Coach Brown, Water Valley softball went to the playoffs for the first time. Under Coach Brown, Water Valley softball won its first playoff series, and under Coach Brown, Water Valley is back in the playoffs again this year, something most people thought this program would never do.
“Five years ago Water Valley softball was something people didn’t want to talk about and now we have a field of our own and we are known as a competitive team.
“Coach Brown, we will never forget you and we know you will be successful in whatever you do. We are not only better softball players, we are better people for the time we have had you as our coach.