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MA junior high wins fourth straight title

The Marengo Academy junior high team won the AISA state softball tournament for the fourth consecutive year last weekend, sweeping through the winner’s bracket and closing it out with a win in the title game.

The junior Lady Longhorns entered the draw as the top seed and dispatched of Edgewood 12-1 in the first game. Ally Vick started the game in the circle, pitching four innings and striking out three while surrendering no hits and no walks. She gave way to Andrea Edmonds, who closed out the game with one inning of work and one hit allowed.

MA followed up that effort with a 4-1 win over Kingwood. In that contest, Vick pitched all six innings, struck out five, gave up four hits and issued no walks.

The finals of the winner’s bracket came Saturday and saw MA beat host team Macon-East Montgomery 8-2 in a game that saw Vick pitch four and a third innings and give up only three hits while striking out four and walking two. Edmonds went the rest of the way, logging two and two thirds innings of scoreless, hitless work.

Vick then pitched all seven innings to put away Kingwood 8-6 and capture the tournament crown. The freshman struck out seven and walked two in the performance. She wrapped up the tournament having struck out 19 in 21 and a third innings of work over a two-day span.

“That’s Ally. She goes about her business and does her job. That’s tough on a girl,” MA junior high head coach Danny Stenz said of the workload Vick shouldered over the two-day span. “They only way we could get through that was to stay in the winner’s bracket. Andrea (Edmonds) coming in and giving her a couple of innings of relief helped.”

The ladies averaged eight runs a game, scoring 32 times in a four-game stretch. That effort is helped by the fact that two of the players, freshmen Katie Tucker and Reesa Holifield, have been starting on the varsity team all season.

“They are seeing much faster pitching at the varsity level,” Stenz said. “When they see JV pitching, it is much slower. That i a tremendous help for them.”

Stenz was especially impressed with the way his team responded against Kingwood, whose JV pitcher also serves as the varsity pitcher.

“The girl we faced against Kingwood is also their main varsity pitcher. She may be one of the best in the state,” Stenz said. “The first time we played Kingwood, we had two hits. The second time we had nine hits. Seeing her that second time really helped out. Kingwood’s pitcher is an awesome pitcher. They really had to shorten their swing up a little bit. They did that. They did a good job focusing in and doing what they needed to do.”

Vick made the all-tournament team along with Tucker, Chandler Stenz and Brooke Smyly. Stenz scored six runs and recorded six RBIs in the leadoff spot. Smyly had five runs and two RBIs. Tucker scored five times and picked up three RBIs. Holifield was just behind that group with three runs scored and five RBIs. Vick also helped herself offensively with two runs and two RBIs. Conner Etheridge scored four times and had an RBI. Alexia Johnson scored three runs and had two RBIs. Edmonds had three runs and three RBIs while Nicole Parten also scored.

Stenz said the junior high tournament is an important part of the Marengo Academy softball program’s developmental process, citing the success of the current varsity squad as evidence of that fact.

“Seven of our starters on varsity started in that championship game that first year,” Stenz said. “That will tell you how important it is. We’ve had such a good program. We’ve had so many daddies and mamas getting out and working with their kids.”