By Bryan Davis
Sometime in the next two weeks, Magen Tapley is going to walk off the softball field for the final time as a Hebron Christian Lady Eagle.
She is one of seven seniors who will be leaving the team this year. For Magen Tapley, the trip off the diamond might be a little more emotional. There may be a few extra tears when she looks back on the opportunity she’s had.
A middle infielder, Magen has had the chance to not only play behind her sister, Chloe, who is Hebron’s starting pitcher, but she has learned a lot of what she knows about softball from her father.
Cass Tapley was given the chance to coach the Hebron softball team, and with that job, he gets to instruct Magen and Chloe.
“It’s a great opportunity Hebron’s given me,” the coach/father said on Wednesday. “It’s certainly rewarding as a dad. I don’t know about the kids, because they are always being coached. I wouldn’t take anything for it.”
Admittedly, the coach says that he has gotten to work with Chloe a lot more than Magen, simply because the senior has another coach in her summer league play. Magen still gets orders from her dad, perhaps more than the other 19 players on the Lady Eagles roster.
“It has its advantages,” Magen said. “I don’t think I’d have anybody else coach me.”
For the younger one, the sophomore standout pitcher, she is quick to point out that she gets coached all the time, but in the end, it has made her the player she is.
“I get in trouble more than anybody else,” said Chloe Tapley. “I work hard, and I practice a lot more. It makes me better.”
Chloe has been the backbone of the Lady Eagle’s ride to the playoffs this season. Though two years younger than her sister, she has pitched every important game they have won, including the eight district wins.
Two weeks ago, the pitcher was asked to clinch the conference for Hebron. She hurled six strong innings, but the offense had not scored any runs behind her.
Finally, the girls got two runs for her. She took care of the rest, allowing just one run to Kemper in the bottom of the seventh, securing the title.
“I knew we’d eventually hit and win it,” Magen said.
Ask Chloe about the pressures of pitching, especially in pressure situations, and she is as confident as she seems on the mound.
“I don’t really think about it,” the pitcher said. “The pitching is not really that hard. It’s the hitting that makes me more nervous.”
Magen, who plans to attend Itawamba Community College next Fall, has no immediate plans of playing softball. The upcoming playoff games will likely be the final time the shortstop will get to hear fielding or batting corrections from her dad.
“I don’t know how we’re going to handle the last game,” Tapley said. “It’s been fun. It’s been a good ride.”
That ride is going to continue for the coach and Chloe, who will be entering her junior season next Fall. For the two sisters, playing together, as they have for so many years, will be a thing of the past.
“I don’t know how often they think about playing together,” Tapley said. “They will look back on it. They won a lot of games, and that will be something they will remember.”
“I like playing with her sometimes,” Magen joked. “I’ll miss playing with her next year.”
Though there may have been a touch of sibling rivalry during the intense season that has ended in a district win for Hebron, Magen is quick to laugh it off as nothing serious.
Chloe and her coach know that losing Magen is just a part of it. For Chloe, it’s going to be like losing seven sisters.
“It’s going to be weird next year without any of those seniors,” Chloe said. “It’s like half the team.”
No doubt their coach agrees, lamenting the fact that he’s going to lose all of that senior leadership, but it’s going to be an emotional time for him as well.
“It’s going to be heartbreaking because all of those girls have grown up in my house,” Tapley said. “They’re not just girls that have come and played softball. They’ve been on vacations with us and everything.”
The girls will have to face Delta Academy tomorrow morning in Cleveland. They’re going there well-prepared to win, but they are more prepared to just have fun.
“We’re going to enjoy this weekend,” Tapley said. “Whatever happens, we’re as prepared as we can be.”
Regardless of when the season ends for the Lady Eagles, their coach has one minor change for the girls once it’s over.
“We won’t have a team meeting after our last game,” Tapley said. “We’ll talk about it later.”
That news might come as relief to most of the Hebron players, but for Chloe and Magen Tapley, they might relish one last post-game talk from their dad.