SHERIDAN – The Sheridan Lady Yellowjackets were just two wins away from having one of its best years in school history.
But a small hiccup in the semifinals against Russellville ended the team’s championship run.
“It was probably one of our better teams,” Sheridan head coach Eddie Woodall said. “We played well in almost every game.
“We could have won them and we could have lost two or three more. We played well all year.”
Uncharacteristic errors by Sheridan in the fifth and sixth inning allowed Russellville to come back from a 3-1 deficit and tie the game. Russellville later won the game in the eighth inning.
“We had a little hiccup there in the semifinal game,” Woodall said. “Honestly, the pitcher from Russellville was outstanding. Probably one of the best we saw all year.”
Still, despite falling short in the semifinals, Sheridan finished the season 26-3 and lost three games by a total of three runs.
For his team’s performance, Woodall is named the SEARK Coach of the Year in softball.
“There was not a whole more that we could done – besides winning the state championship – that would have made it any better,” Woodall said.
Russellville eventually won the state championship, beating Benton in the finals at Fayetteville.
“They were a really good team and we had our chances,” Woodall said. “Overall thought it was a great year.”
Now the question becomes: How does Sheridan replace its three starting seniors? Catcher Allison Stipes, third baseman Morgan Cotton and first baseman Tiffany Easter graduated this year.
Stipes had a .406 batting average with 27 runs, 15 RBIs and five walks. She was named 7A/6A-South All-District and will play in the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star Game.
“Almost every umpire I would talk to this year would say she was the best catcher that they had called behind all year,” Woodall said. “She was just real hard-nosed and never complained.
“She does her job and works hard.”
Cotton had a batting average of .352 with 15 runs scored, 23 RBIs, three stolen bases and eight walks.
“She is a clutch hitter and played real well,” Woodall said. “She had a double against Russellville in the state championship that scored two runs and gave us the 3-1 lead.
“She also made some unbelievable plays at third this year.”
Woodall estimated that Easter had just one error all year long.
“She is team leader,” Woodall said. “She may be president one day. She just has all her ducks in a row and keeps everybody in line.
“One of those you don’t have very often.”
Six starters do return for next year including five juniors: Sydney Bonner, Hunter Clark, Morgan White, Lauren Mitchell and Madison Crosby.
Bonner had a 13-2 pitching record with an ERA of .089. Clark had a .443 batting average with 32 runs, 33 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 15 walks and five home runs.
Clark has already committed to Arkansas Tech.
White batted .450 with 40 runs, 20 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 17 walks and two home runs. She was All-State in 2012 and 2013.
“She is just a calm lake – same all the time,” Woodall said. “Not a lot of ups and downs.”
Mitchell batted .410 with 30 runs, 15 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. After taking a trip to the College World Series, Woodall said he believes Mitchell belongs there with them.
“Some of those girls may be a little faster and arms a little stronger,” Woodall said. “But she makes some of those kind of plays. She goes and gets it.
“She reads it really quick and a good base runner.”
Other returning players include Olivia Reed, who batted around .400, and Taylor Normand.
“We’ll be fine, but I don’t know if you can replace the ones we are losing,” Woodall said.
Woodall said the games that stand out to him from this season were the White Hall games and the Benton games.
Sheridan played White Hall in the Drew Melton Memorial Tournament at the beginning of the season.
“You could tell White Hall had won state before,” Woodall said. “By the way they carried themselves. They have got some outstanding players.
“We were fortunate to beat them. When we play White Hall, it is always a war. But we’ve been lucky several times to come up on top.”
Woodall said he wouldn’t be anywhere without his assistant coaches Kris Erstine and Rusty Barton.
“It is not one guy by any stretch,” Woodall said. “Those guys work hard every day. They do a great job for us.”