The long summer months of practicing and playing were nothing compared to the hours that seemed to creep by Tuesday night. Burke County’s Lady Bears remained focused and fought hard through a doubleheader against Thomson High School that began at 4 p.m. and lasted well past 10, not only hanging on to their undefeated region season but sealing a championship in the process.
“It was a long night, but for me, I lost track of time … I was in a zone to try and do everything I could to help the girls be successful.”Head Coach Aaron Fera
And success came in the shape of a trophy at the end of game two, after the girls defeated Thomson’s Lady Bulldogs 15-14 following an 11-10 victory in game one. While the first game saw the Lady Bears down 6-0 after two innings, they battled back and took the win in an extra inning.
“It was a night that defined our character, who we really are as a team,” Fera went on to say. “We refused to give up, regardless of how bad it was, and in the end we came out on top. It was the most exciting two games I have been a part of since I began coaching, and I am pretty sure the girls feel the same way.”
Junior first baseman Baylie Lovett said the feeling was indescribable. “Seeing it all play out in front of us like that after we’ve all worked so hard for months was a feeling you can’t really explain. This has brought our team together in more ways than I can count. As a team, we have been through so much together already. This win was definitely one we will all always remember.”
Another thing the girls will always remember is Savanna “Vanna” Loper, friend and former teammate who died earlier this year. “Everything we have been doing, all the hard work, dedication and love that we have for each other is what she always wanted for us,” Lovett said. “Everything will always be for our girl V.”
“There were so many remarkable plays and performances from that night, but only one stands out to me,” Fera said, describing how the girls all ran out to right center to honor Vanna. “They were not told to do that; they did it as a team. It was amazing for Coach (Amy) Stewart and I to see.”
Morgan Chancey, a junior who is lead off batter and center fielder for the Lady Bears, said she and her teammates have been working on a region championship for years now. “It is absolutely amazing to see how far we have come as a team,” she said, adding that most of the girls have been playing together since middle school or before. “The juniors, my graduating class, have been blessed with Fera as a coach for the past six years, which has strengthened our overall bond. Each athlete has developed, and I saw so much growth this season from each individual but also growth as a team. We learned to ‘hold the rope,’ which was our motto derived from coach Amy Stewart telling us to hold each other accountable and never give up. Through the Thomson games, I saw that phrase shine through each player. Each girl was an asset to that win. Playing Thomson as a freshman years ago, I never could’ve seen us accomplishing this or even walking into the championship so confident or driven.”
Chancey, too, said that losing Loper was a spark to their growth. “She was our outfielder, encourager and team mom. All she wanted for us was the Thomson win, so we were determined to ‘do it for V.’ That is when we decided we were going to be region champions. There was no other way.”
Up next, the girls will host the first round of the state playoffs in a best of three series. The playoffs will kick off Tuesday, Oct. 8, though Fera said they do not know yet who their opponent will be. If the Lady Bears pull through, they’ll also host the second round of playoffs, scheduled to begin the following week. The girls wrap up their regular season with a 19-4, 11-0 record.
“Going into state, I feel like we have enough tools in our toolbox to pull out some major wins,” Chancey said, looking toward the future. “Our coach has said for years, although this year it was more evident, that when we work together and are confident, we can beat anyone we want.”
ON THE PROWL
“Libby Ford pitched amazing both games and got the wins in both games. She also played amazing defense out there.”Coach Aaron Fera
TOP HITTERS – GAME 1:
Lindsi Sullivan, 1-3 with 3 RBIs
Kam Parker, 3-5 with a HR and
Delana Tablada, 1-1 with 2 RBIs
Baylie Lovett, 2-2
Morgan Chancey, 2-5
Libby Ford, 2-5
TOP HITTERS – GAME 2:
Karleigh Taylor 1-2 with a triple
and an RBI
Chancey, 2-3 with an RBI
This story first appeared in the True Citizen.