Gators aiming to stay perfect this weekend at tournament

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Brianna Henson needed just a few pitches before she blasted a ball deep into centerfield Tuesday — a hit that would have likely landed her at second base if it hadn’t been a practice shot.

Yet, the expectation for the Ferriday Gators 18-and-under softball team is much more than just batting doubles.

“C’mon! Put a little strength in it,” Maecee Thornton said as she stood at first base. “That could have been over the fence!”

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As the rest of the team chipped in with motivation, it was all for good reason.

The Gators are traveling to the Dixie Debs State Tournament this weekend with an undefeated record of 20-0. Their first game of the tournament is slated for 6 p.m. Friday in West Monroe.

“We have the best of everything around here,” Gators coach Rut Horne said. “Most of these girls have been with us for years, and I feel pretty good.”

Horne said while the success is not a surprise after winning four of the past five state championships, the Gators have leaned heavily on a strong defense to lead them to an unblemished regular season.

Horne said the team’s strength lies in its wealth of talent in the circle, where the he’s comfortable starting either Henson, Bailey Book or Elizabeth Smith during any given game.

“This is the best and strongest pitching I’ve ever had,” he said. “I have always had a lot of arms, but I’ve never had three that could throw 60 mph. You can flip a coin, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.”

Book, who is in her third year on the team agreed it helps to have depth in the circle.

“We do end up having a lot of shutouts,” she said. “Our defense doesn’t really have to work that hard because we always have had dominant pitchers.”

After coaching the Gators for about 20 years, Horne is confident his team can push its way to another state title. If they can achieve the goal, they will also receive a bid to the World Series in Alexandria, La.

“The secret to our success is getting these kids early and getting the best ones,” he said. “These are some really good kids.”