Fife, Lady Rebels persevere to claim Class AAA crown

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Kramer Fife’s treasure chest overflowed in his short life, with winning and coaching teenagers being precious jewels.

A familiar hat Fife wore to Adams County Christian School athletic events, whether it be as an assistant in football, head coach of the girls’ track team or assisting brother Rick Fife with the Lady Rebel softball team, simply read: &uot;Ain’t nothing but a winner.&uot;

For seniors Alesia Brown and Meghan Marchbanks, and sophomore Kelcie Messer, the words became their season, as AC captured the Mississippi Private School Association Class AAA slow-pitch state title over rival Parklane.

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&uot;I appreciate all the girls’ hard work and determination throughout the season,&uot; said Rick Fife, who also thanked his wife for hanging on through the emotional tidal wave of wins and losses. &uot;(My players) really hung in there with me through some tough times this season.&uot;

For their efforts Brown (.395 batting average; only four fielding errors) and Messer (.513 BA; only two fielding errors) lead a talent-laden The Natchez Democrat All-Metro first team at first base and in the outfield, respectively. Marchbanks (.398 BA) was a second-team selection at third.

AC was one of four teams to have two players make the first team. Natchez seniors Karmethia Mazique and Mable Green made the squad in the outfield and second base, respectively. Huntington ace Erin Hedrick (17-10, 2 saves, 1.49 ERA, 96 Ks, 26 BB) was a first-team selection along with fellow Lady Hound Lauren Wagoner (.371 BA, 13 doubles, four HRs, 31 RBIs, 26 runs) at the hot corner.

LHSAA Class 2A champs Vidalia plated two first-team members to go along with its All-Metro Most Valuable Player in Miranda Doughty. Doughty’s battery mate Jaci Deweese (.294 BA, six doubles, 27 RBIs) and the Lady Vikings No. 2 pitcher Jenny Watson (.349 BA, six doubles, two triples, 15 RBIs), who was just as deadly with her bat occupies the designated hitter slot, join the MVP.

The LHSAA District 4-1A MVP Dani McMillin (.467 BA, .666 on-base percentage, one error in 64 chances) of Block is at short, and Cathedral junior Laura Huffines (.585 BA) rounds out the outfield and the All-Met team.

Fife believes the Lady Rebels, who captured their second state crown in three years, worked well together because a large number of the roster were used to the big game atmosphere.

&uot;Softball is supposed to be a lot of fun. That’s our attitude on the field and how we end up playing the game,&uot; Marchbanks said. &uot;We’re relaxed and know how to play. Combine those two qualities and you’ve got a great group of winners.&uot;

Marchbanks and Brown both said their junior seasons was a big let down from winning a ring the year before. The six seniors took it upon themselves to make sure this season was all about scaling Everest again.

&uot;After we won my sophomore year, my junior year was a real disappointment,&uot; Marchbanks said. &uot;This whole year we had been working to get back to the stat tournament. It was amazing. I’m not sure how to explain it.&uot;

Amazing, yes. However, easy would not be one of the ways to describe the long strange trip. This was Parklane after all.

&uot;I got more nervous playing Parklane than any other team in my career,&uot; said Brown, who is considering walking on to Mississippi State’s fast-pitch team. &uot;They are our biggest rival and I know if we don’t beat them, everybody is in trouble.&uot;

But a harmless, &uot;can of corn&uot; pop out to first baseman Kelcie Ward soothed in anxieties and doubts, and the mob was on.

Marchbanks can still picture standing at third and praying as the ball hung over first base. When Ward snagged it, Rick Fife was the first out of the dugout and Marchbanks followed him across the diamond, as Messer soaked in the moment from right field.

&uot;Just being out on the field with each other for so long, we’ve really become a family with one another,&uot; said the usually shy Messer. &uot;You really have to trust each other in this game.&uot;

Fife said a coach never knows what type of approach he will need with a team from year-to-year. But from the moment he donned the AC uniform as head coach, replacing Bruce Pickle who got the program off its feet, Fife has had his feet up.

&uot;I feel very comfortable around these girls, and I attribute a great deal of that to coach Pickle, who started this program with a laid back approach,&uot; he said.

&uot;I came in not really knowing what to expect and they responded better than I could have ever imagined.&uot;

Maybe even better than Cramer could have envisioned.