COSBY—Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script for the events that transpired Tuesday afternoon at Cosby High School. The Lady Eagles softball team squared off against Washburn with a district tournament championship on the line.
Cosby topped Washburn 3-2 the last time they met on The Hill, and Tuesday’s game was a repeat performance. The Lady Eagles held a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh with the Lady Pirates coming to the plate. Reese Michaels would strikeout the first batter to inch Cosby closer to a title. A single and two walks later and the bases were loaded in the blink of an eye.
Michaels settled her nerves and struck out Rylee Coffman in a four pitch at bat. She circled the mound one last time before facing Torrie Proffitt with a championship on the horizon. It took Michaels just one pitch to induce an infield fly ball that found the glove of third baseman Kylee Cornwell.
As her glove closed around the ball the Cosby dugout erupted with cheers. The Lady Eagles had achieved the goal set by head coach Mike Bryant when the season began, which was taking back the district they have reigned over for almost a decade.
The victory was bittersweet as Cosby battled from an 0-1 start to the district campaign in the regular season to take a share of the regular season title. The district’s two best teams played three times this year with neither team beating the other by more than one run. Cosby avenged their loss in the championship game a year ago and claimed their seventh title in the last eight years.
Bryant knew his team was capable of making another run at a district title but wasn’t sure if they would buy in early in the season. His new aggressive style of play paid off as Cosby lifted another championship trophy.
“To be honest I knew we had the ability but whether we came together as a team and applied what we were trying to do was up in the air,” Bryant said. “Several times early on I think the girls were just as frustrated with me as some of the losses we had. I was getting them thrown out at third trying to be aggressive, and seeing things like that brings a level of frustration to them. It’s paid off more times than we’ve been punished by my over aggressiveness.”
Bryant tipped his cap to the Lady Pirates for their impressive season and the three games they played one another that pushed both teams to their limits. Washburn’s star pitcher Tori Coffman struck out 10 Lady Eagle batters in the game.
Michaels and Coffman were locked in a pitcher’s duel once again with neither giving an inch until Cosby’s breakthrough in the fourth inning. Chloe Hance bunted a ball to Coffman whose throw was dropped by the first baseman giving Cosby their first base runner of the game. She would steal second to move into scoring position.
Michaels followed with a bunt single of her own, which allowed Hance to advance to third. The ensuing throw to third allowed Michaels to reach second safely. Sophomore Shylee Weeks came to the plate hoping to do damage in her second at bat against Coffman.
She found herself in a quick 0-2 hole but fouled off several pitches until she found one to her liking. Weeks delivered a hot shot to third that traveled between the third baseman’s legs to plate Hance and Michaels and give Cosby a 2-0 lead.
The Lady Eagles weren’t finished as Weeks was able to steal third after her two run double to give Kaymen Moss a chance at an RBI. Moss would strikeout but the pitch skipped past Washburn’s catcher allowing Weeks to score from third and Moss to take first safely. Coffman would get a 5-3 put out to end the inning.
“Every game we have played them this year has been a one run game. Hats off to Tori (Coffman). She got us on our heels a time or two, but we were able to play some small ball with them and make them make plays. It’s something that we’ve been preaching all year long and it’s paid off,” Bryant said.
“Their third baseman plays in so tight, just about anything you hit decently hard is difficult for her to make a play on. They’re always trying to protect the bunt down the third baseline. Shylee got two strikes on her and for some reason the third baseman stayed in tight. I told Shylee to shorten up and put it in play and she did.”
Washburn made some noise of their own in the top half of the fifth. An error allowed Gracie Breeding to score the Lady Pirates first run of the game. Coffman would walk and her courtesy runner would steal second to move into scoring position. Abby Taylor launched a ball to center field that reached the wall and allowed another run to score for Washburn.
With the score 3-2 it looked as if Washburn was on the verge of at least tying the game. Rylee Coffman came to the plate and delivered a double to center field. Moss came up firing from the outfield and cut down the runner at the plate to preserve Cosby’s one run lead. The junior made one of the biggest plays of her career at the time it was needed most.
Cosby’s roster is full of young players who have led them at various points throughout the season. They lose two seniors at the end of the year but look poised to control the district for many years to come.
Bryant said he and his coaches knew there would be growing pains this season, but the future looks bright with the strides that have been made.
“I had a conversation with our coaches at the beginning of the season about how this was going to be our year to grow. We knew that was the case with basically one senior starter on the team and one senior that is a part-time starter. We have a couple of juniors but everyone else is sophomores and freshmen. We have a good high ceiling as long as we stay together and keep doing the things we want to do.”
Cosby will continue their postseason play as they will host the runner up from district one in a regional game. It will be a win or go home scenario, but if Cosby can win the region semi they would be guaranteed at least two additional games. A spot in the regional final would lead to a substate appearance.
The Lady Eagles gathered at center field following their win for a photo op with their newest piece of hardware. Parents, family and friends gathered around them to celebrate their accomplishment.
Bryant said his team finally saw the fruits of their labor.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these girls. They have worked so hard and put up with a lot of ranting, raving and pressure situations. I think they saw tonight how all that can pay off.”