Diane Smith had been waiting for Monday since she first heard Calhoun was going to play softball in the spring.
“Today, I was just fidgety,” the Lady Jackets Softball head coach said with a grin. “I told Coach (Bret) Greene I couldn’t wait for the game to get started.”
For the first time in 21 years, Calhoun High School fielded a slow-pitch softball team. In their (re)debut, the Lady Jackets started 2020 2-0 after sweeping the visiting McEachern Indians by scores of 10-0 in five innings and 15-8.
“I feel good about it and the kids are excited,” Smith said “Everybody got to play and that’s my goal to play them as much as I can.”
Calhoun batted as the home team in game one. Junior Jordan Blair started on the mound and made short work of the first McEachern batters she faced.
The Lady Jackets wasted little time finding the scoreboard as the ball flew off the bat. An RBI single, RBI double and sacrifice fly to center field gave Calhoun a 3-0 edge, and the team never looked back.
“They were nervous about hitting the arched ball, but I think they did pretty well,” Smith said.
Up 5-0 in the bottom of the third, sophomore Molly Banks led off with the first home run of the season beyond the left-field wall for a 6-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the fifth, with Calhoun ahead 8-0, freshman Alexis Speer notched an infield RBI single to make it 9-0 and junior Hannah Mashburn followed her with the game-winning RBI single.
Final in five innings: 10-0 Calhoun
While the offense was in high gear, Blair’s pitching held McEachern in check as she delivered a three-hit shutout to start the 2020 season.
“I thought she did outstanding,” Smith said. “I know she’s been practicing at home. She said her mom used to be a pitcher in slow pitch so she’s been working with her.”
Calhoun batted as the away team in the second of the doubleheader. Seconds into the contest, junior Lyndi Rae Davis belted a no-doubt leadoff homer into the parking lot across River Street for a 1-0 advantage.
The Lady Jackets would add on three more runs before three outs to take a 4-0 lead.
Calhoun seemed to be in cruise control as the team piled up seven runs in the next two innings to boast an 11-0 edge after 2 1/2 innings. Mashburn, now on the mound pitching, had limited the Indians to two hits, but ran into a bit of trouble.
Seven consecutive singles saw the shutout streak fall by the wayside and McEachern pull within six at 11-5 before the Lady Jackets recorded the third out.
Calhoun’s difference shrunk to 12-8, but in the top of the seventh inning, Banks hit her second home run of the night, a three-run homer to left-center field to effectively solidify the sweep.
Calhoun took game two 15-8.
“I think our opponents are going to have a tough time whipping us,” Smith said. “We’re going to go out there and do the best we can. I’m just tickled I’ve got this many playing.”
Despite the team holding practices since Feb. 18, all of those have been indoors due to the recent weather. The girls ran drills with whiffle balls inside a gymnasium.
Monday was their first time outside on the actual playing surface.
“This is going to help us defensively for our fast pitch and I wasn’t real pleased with our defense today. We made a few errors,” Smith said. “The other team hit the ball that second game and when they get a hit, there’s not too much you can do. There’s things we’ve got to work on. They’ve had that experience now with their first slow-pitch game.”
The manner was upbeat and the Lady Jackets were jovial, laughing and congratulating one another on exceptional plays.
“They were all excited and ready to play today,” Smith said. “I just love to see them all happy. They were happy and I was happy. Being together and bonding, they had a good time today.”
Smith said this day had been coming for quite some time.
“I’ve been wanting to play this since (GHSA) started it three years ago,” Smith said. “We posted on our softball Facebook ... a picture of a team, I believe it was my ‘95 team who won the region championship. There’s already been responses from some of those players. A mama of one of them said ‘Oh, good old days. That was so much fun.’ It’s exciting.”