After conquering the state for three straight years, the Lady Blazers’ softball team came up just short in its quest for a regional championship.
But they were knocking on the door so loudly, it’s hard to imagine they won’t be heard from again.
This group of girls won the 9-10 Little League state championship in 2009, and then won back-to-back titles in the 11-12 year-old group.
In each of the last two years, the Lady Blazers have played in the Southeast Regional. This year’s performance in Warner Robbins, Ga., produced the same 2-2 record as 2010, but the team went one step further by reaching the semifinals.
And this year’s team was an inch or so away from beating the team that eventually won the championship.
Trailing 3-2 in extra innings against North Carolina, Lindsey Laughrun hit a line-drive single with runners on first and second base. Unfortunately the hit was also the final out of the game as the umpire ruled the ball struck baserunner Rachel Vittetoe.
“I was bringing a runner around third base,” said manager Jan Laughrun. “Then I heard the umpire say, ‘Game over.’
“Rachel said it didn’t hit her. Her dad was coaching first base, and said it may have grazed her. It was that close.”
Prior to the 3-2 loss to North Carolina, the Lady Blazers defeated defending champ Georgia. And after the heartbreaking loss, they bounced back to beat Alabama by scoring three times in the last inning to win, 3-2.
However, Florida crushed the Blazers 11-0 behind some power from the niece of an NBA standout.
“Amare Stoudamire’s niece clubbed one 225 feet off the top of the wall,” said Laughrun.
Florida then lost 7-2 to North Carolina in the title game.
Laughrun said his players set themselves on a path for success back in the district tournament in 2009.
“We were playing Unicoi and down 8-3 in the second inning,” said Laughrun. “We came back and won 11-10. To me, that pretty much got the ball rolling for us.
“We beat Unicoi the next day for the district championship, and then went to Pulaski and eventually beat Maryville for the state title.”
In the 2010 state tournament the team trailed 5-1 to Maryville in the final inning, but rallied for the win.
With back-to-back titles in hand, the team traveled to Memphis this year and won again.
“We had most of the girls back, so that put pressure on us,” said Laughrun.
Not enough pressure to matter, however, as the Lady Blazers beat Morristown 17-4 for the title.
Laughrun said the girls went to Warner Robbins with a championship attitude.
“We went down there with the mindset that we were going to win,” he said.
As for the future, Daniel Boone head softball coach Rick Wagner might want to invest in some high-quality sunglasses — because things look bright.
“Rick already has an outstanding program,” said Laughrun. “And it should continue to flourish with these girls.”
Boone will have to wait a couple of years as the players are going into the seventh grade. Three will play at Boones Creek, three at Sulphur Springs, and five at Ridgeview.
Jaymie Jenkins, Tonya Jenkins and Tim Campbell coached the 2010 Lady Blazers while Laughrun led them in 2009 and this year.
Pitchers for the Lady Blazers are Macy Bishop and Christina Blevins.
Rounding out the roster (with position) are Lindsey Laughrun (lf, 2b), Rachel Vittetoe (cf), Abby Harrison (ss), Abby Wilson (c), Macey Dance (3b), Rhetta Persinger (1b), Hannah Crawford (2b, rf), Jackie Painter (rf) and Courtney Hurt (rf).
The coaches are Phil Vittetoe and Chad Crawford. Laughrun said he also wanted to thank Daniel Boone Little League president David Wine, and player representative Allan Bridges for their help.