By Bryan Davis
For the second time in four years, the Oak Hill Academy Lady Raiders softball team is in the overall state tournament in Ridgeland, which will start tomorrow.
Oak Hill will start the day off at 12:30, playing the No. 1 team out of the South, Silliman Institute.
By all accounts, the Clinton, La. based team is very strong, as the Lady Raiders will seek the Class AA state title.
‚ÄúSilliman is a very strong ball club,‚ÄĚ sadi Oak Hill head coach Marion Bratton said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre loaded all the way down to the junior high ranks. Their junior high is probably as good as their varsity team.‚ÄĚ
Bratton said that he is familiar with the school from baseball playoff action, and he knows they will be an athletic bunch.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre very competitive down there,‚ÄĚ Bratton said. ‚ÄúWe know going in that they‚Äôre going to hit the ball. They‚Äôre pitcher is probably comparable to Mamie (Allen), as far as quality goes.‚ÄĚ
Oak Hill is coming off a 1-2 North State Tournament weekend, which saw them win against North Delta to secure their spot in Ridgeland.
‚ÄúWe played really well against North Delta,‚ÄĚ said Bratton. ‚ÄúWe looked like an entirely different team. The girls played well together.‚ÄĚ
Bratton will be looking for that kind of play this weekend, which will include two games, the first one against Silliman and a second at 5:45.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got to be the underdog out of the eight teams,‚ÄĚ Bratton said. ‚ÄúI just feel like we are, because Oak Hill traditionally doesn‚Äôt go to state.‚ÄĚ
That could prove to be advantageous for the Lady Raiders, who are trying to get healthy after battling a number of injuries in the last month of the season.
‚ÄúThey don‚Äôt know how close they could be to a championship,‚ÄĚ Bratton said. ‚ÄúIf they show up and play like they can, we could fool some folks.‚ÄĚ
As of right now, pitcher Mamie Allen is still battling a quad injury, but she will pitch on Saturday. Maegan Ellis, a freshman pitcher, will relieve Allen if needed. Ellis proved herself capable when she defeated Manchester, in a complete game effort, on September 7.
‚ÄúI‚Äôd like to put one group out there and go with it, but we‚Äôve got about 12 or 13 girls, 14 at times, who have contributed to us getting to where we need to be,‚ÄĚ Bratton said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got some flexibility.‚ÄĚ
Bratton said that despite all that has happened, his group is ready to take the field.
‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt seen them this relaxed,‚ÄĚ Bratton said. ‚ÄúThey seem relaxed and ready to go play some ball. You only have one time to be a kid, and championships don‚Äôt come every year.‚ÄĚ