Mineola Nearly Pulls Off Comeback For the Ages in 3A State Title Game
AUSTIN — As head coach Jana Nance and the Mineola softball team walked to home plate to collect their state runner-up medals, the crowd of more than 1,000 was still buzzing from what they just witnessed.
Mineola may be heading home without the ultimate prize, but what the Lady Jackets accomplished in the seventh inning of their 12-9 loss to Lufkin Hudson in the Class 3A state final will surely reverberate through Red & Charline McCombs Field for years to come.
The Lady Jackets trailed by 10 runs entering the bottom of the seventh, had their first two batters of the inning retired in order, but ended up bringing the potential game-winning run to the plate.
With the bases jacked, Mineola senior Britney Johnson jerked a sharp grounder down the first-base line where Hudson first baseman Alyssa Dotson made a diving stop before racing to the bag for the final out.
The ball gets by Dotson, and it likely rolls all the way to wall and we would’ve had a tie game.
“They never gave up,” said Nance, choking back tears. “That was the best moment (in my coaching career). They didn’t stop trying, they kept fighting.”
The comeback attempt prompted the frenzied crowd — even the Hudson contingent — to greet Mineola players and coaches with a rousing standing ovation upon receiving their consolation trophy.
Just a few moments earlier, it appeared as if Mineola’s second consecutive state-tournament would end in blowout fashion.
“It does make it that much tougher with the winning run at home plate,” Nance said. “That does make it a lot tougher.”
Hudson pitcher Kelsee Selman, who has signed with LSU, earned championship game MVP honors after surviving the marathon half-inning that featured six hits, 13 batters and 42 pitches.
“They are a really good team, especially their hitters,” Selman said of Mineola. “One through nine, they’re all really good. I expected that so I was trying to get through the best I could.”
Kassy Skinner began the rally by singling to center with two outs. Johnson then tripled her home and came in to score on Rikkilyn Hass’ RBI single.
Marisa Ledkins followed with a single before Morgan Catron hit a grounder to Hudson shortstop Bryli Lee, who attempted to tag Hass for the final out but had the ball jarred loose.
Jade “Sister” Green then belted a three-run double cutting the deficit to 12-7. Green moved to third on a passed ball and scored on an another to bring Mineola to within four.
Ali Galaz followed with a walk and scored on Manda WIlmoth’s RBI double. Maddie Wood was then hit by a pitch and Skinner walked to load the bases for Johnson, who fell behind in the count 0-2 and fouled off a couple of pitches before making the game’s final out.
Mineola was attempting to defy the odds a second time after reaching the state tournament in 3A after qualifying for state in 2A the previous year.
“We had an amazing season to come back (to the state tournament) again a second time,” Nance said. “To get that close to the championship is crazy, but we have a lot of girls coming back. We are going to miss our seniors (Johnson, Ledkins, Galaz, Wood) — a group of four really good girls.”