After Fayetteville’s opening 18-6 loss to three-time defending state champions Ragland, Guy was asked how his team would bounce back from a tough loss.
“That’s what defining character means,” Guy explained. “To me, your character is defined by adversity. How do you handle it? To sustain character is to succeed.”
It could be said the team sustained character in three convincing victories this weekend at the South-Central Regional, and most importantly, handling adversity with a bounce-back victory after defeat.
Haydn Hughes was lifted in the loss to Ragland and was visibly emotional about it, but Guy was there to offer encouragement.
“I can understand the emotions, but it’s just like I told her: we’ve got to learn from this and build on it so that at that next level we set the example for all the other teams,” Guy said. “Not just our team. It’s a tough deal, but we’re going to bounce back. That’s what I told Haydn. I said we’ve got to bounce back and go to work. This one’s done and gone. I’m not worried about this one; I’m worried about the next one. I said ‘Are you ready?’ and she said ‘Yes, sir.’”
Hughes bounced back with a complete-game win in the pitcher’s circle, even striking out the last batter for the last out. Hughes, at least outwardly, was the most excited player on the field.
“It was an emotional victory,” Hughes said. “We cried and we were happy and everything else. It was amazing. We put all of our second string in. I was feeling good. I was feeling my defense was going to back me up. I struck out the last batter and I am just thrilled.”
As Hailey Haynes explained, the team rallied around their emotional leader, Hughes.
“We just do our best to encourage her and keep her up, because she’s there for us,” Haynes said. “Without her, we wouldn’t be able to do as much as we could because you’ve got to have pitching to win a game.”
Billingsley needed 13 innings to defeat Wadley in the final game of the loser’s bracket, before finally notching a 7-3 win to face Fayetteville.
“We had to sit for a while to wait until the schools fought through the bracket,” head coach Chris Sherbert said. “You’ve got to give hats off to Billingsley and Wadley to qualify to play us. They went 13 innings, so they were worn out. You’ve got to feel bad for Billingsley because they put it all on the line and when they got to us they were already tired. But that’s softball. That’s why we stressed to the girls you’ve got to stay in that winner’s bracket. If you stay in that winner’s bracket, it makes the path a whole lot easier. So, we were able to do that. You just can’t say enough about how hard the girls worked. I’m extremely proud of them.”
Lauren Guy scored the first run of the game in the top of the second inning on a fielder’s choice following a soft grounder by Kayla Sherbert for an out at first base. Summer Guy scored on a passed ball. Amber Harris also came around to score to make it 3-0.
A few errors and timely hits helped bring Billingsley back in the game, as they were able to tie the game in the bottom of the second inning.
Fayetteville took a commanding lead in the top of the third inning. Hailey Haynes hit a triple to the gap in right-center field. She and Brittany Snyder came around to score following a single by Lauren Guy. Amber Harris took a walk with the bases loaded to bring another run home. Summer Guy, Kayla Sherbert, and later, on the same play Harris scored on a passed ball and when the throw back to the home plate got away from the pitcher, Hughes opportunistically came in to score to push Fayetteville’s lead to 11-3. The team added another run before the end of the inning.
Hughes cruised through the bottom half of the third, with only one runner reaching base on an error.
“I saw encouragement from the dugout,” Brooke Snyder said. “We were all joyful and excited. We all just had a really good time. Like coach Hughes would say ‘Be happy when we play the game and have fun,’ and that’s what we did.”
In the first game, Ragland started game with a run off of an error and they scored three more runs in the inning.
Fayetteville scored three runs in half of the inning. Brittany Snyder hit a triple on the left field line to give her three RBIs and cut the lead down to 4-3.
“Their pitching was good and it was consistent,” Brittany Snyder said. “It was just a key hit. I was excited. It surprised me, so I was glad. It was a good time. We all were hitting the ball, just hitting it straight to them. They made their plays and we didn’t. So, that’s what happened.”
In the second inning, two errors resulted in two unearned runs with Ragland getting nine total runs in the inning.
Ragland added two more runs in the top of the third inning.
In the bottom of the third inning, Haydn Hughes had an infield single. Peyton Dennis also got a single. Hailey Haynes hit a grounder to shortstop. The shortstop threw home, but the throw wasn’t in time giving Haynes an RBI. Lauren Guy also had an RBI.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Courtney Deloach got a single, advancing to second base and later third base on fielder’s choice plays. Hailey Haynes had a single for another RBI.
But Ragland scored three runs in the fifth inning to end the game.
Peyton Dennis is hopeful the team can build on last year’s trip to Montgomery.
“I feel like if we did last year and we did it this year, then we can definitely go way further on,” Dennis said. “We can keep going every year. I just think that we’re going to be able to make it. One year, we’re going to get a ring. I feel it.”