Coming into this season, at least three of Ridgway Christian’s starting players had never played softball before.
It was that inexperience that proved too costly Tuesday afternoon as the Lady Eagles lost its third straight Arkansas Association of Christian Schools state softball championship game to Columbia Christian, 5-1, at Seabrook Family Christian Center.
“We just have a limited amount of players,” Ridgway head coach Pam Turner said. “They are learning it though.”
Poor weather during the regular season prevented Ridgway (7-5) from playing many games.
“Considering how the season went, I thought it was pretty awesome to get to the finals,” Turner said.
Columbia senior Megan Morton allowed just one run on two hits in seven innings. She struck out five and did not issue a walk.
“We just didn’t hit the ball real well,” Turner said. “We hit the ball well (Monday) but we just weren’t as focused (Tuesday.)
“We just didn’t put enough hits together, and a lot of it is inexperience.”
Columbia won its fourth straight AACS title, including three straight over Ridgway. Last year, the Lady Eagles were nearly run-ruled by Columbia in the title game.
“Last year, we had beat them about two weeks earlier in league play,” Turner said. “… I don’t remember what exactly the score was, but it wasn’t real pretty.
“This year was much better than last.”
Ridgway’s only run of the game came in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Madison Heflin singled and scored on a single by Paige Topping.
“We should have everybody back next year,” Turner said, “because we don’t have any seniors on this team.”
Eighth-grader Crystal McVay made her third straight start for the Lady Eagles. She pitched six innings in the loss, allowing five runs on five hits with five strikeouts.
“She is a pretty special softball player,” Turner said. “She has been playing since she was about six, and plays all the time.
“She works hard at it.”
McVay spent most of her time at third base during the season, but after Ridgway lost a couple of infielders due to “circumstances that were beyond our control,” McVay became the starting pitcher.
“She mainly played third base and usually Lauren Rose did the pitching,” Turner said. “We just decided to change it up a bit.”
Columbia scored two runs in the second and fifth innings each and one run in the first.
Madison Miller scored twice and Alex Whaley was 2 for 3 with an RBI. Rayli Toms had a single and scored a run.