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Sports

May 27, 2014

Lone Oak Lady Buffs making school history

HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL

LONE OAK —   Lone Oak’s Lady Buffs will make school history when they face Crawford at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Austin.

  They’ll become the first team from Lone Oak to reach the University Interscholastic League’s state softball tournament at Red and Charline McCombs Field. Not only that, but the first team from Hunt County to advance to the state high school softball tournament.

  The 33-6 Lady Buffs’ unprecedented accomplishment may have been a surprise to some but not to the players.

  “That’s what we said from the beginning of the year,” said senior shortstop Alyssa Busby. “We said, ‘State.’”

  The Lady Buffs have won 18 of their last 19 games, including back-to-back victories over Mount Vernon on Friday night in Grand Saline to claim the Region II-2A title. They won 3-2 and 4-0 after dropping the first game, 5-3, on Thursday.

  “I think the Mount Vernon loss set us right,” said junior catcher Kaylee Isenburg.

Lone Oak, which committed four errors in the 5-3 loss, made no errors in 14 innings of play in Friday’s doubleheader. That flawless defense helped boost the confidence of freshman Mariah Nichols, who pitched all 21 innings of the playoff series.

  “It helps me be confident and throw what I need to pitch,” she said.

  Nichols, who has verbally committed to Memphis University, struck out 20 batters in the series, including eight Ks each in the two victories. The right-hander has fanned 285 batters and walked only 83 this season for the Lady Buffs.

  Nichols batted .700 in the series with Mount Vernon, slugging two homers and three doubles. She’s hit 16 doubles this season to go with one triple and seven home runs.

  Kaylee Isenburg, who has verbally committed to Northwestern Louisiana, leads Lone Oak with 13 homers, plus 23 doubles and seven triples.

  What’s the secret to her power at the plate?

  “I guess practice, practice, practice,” she said.

  Senior third baseman Chelsea Rigsby, who made some key catches for outs in the Mount Vernon series, has slugged 15 doubles, seven triples and six homers.

  “It’s been a long and exciting experience,” said Rigsby.

  Lone Oak’s team mixes youth with experience. Their roster includes four freshmen, first baseman Ashlee Isenburg, second baseman Christie Cook, Nichols and Ashley Hahn; five sophomores, McKayla Dickey, Becca Schumann, Jayce Womack, Terri Whitefield and Faith Wynn; one junior, Kaylee Isenburg; and four seniors, Rigsby, Busby, Tristan Beck and Caitlin Kimberlin.

  “We’ve got very good chemistry,” said Kaylee Isenburg. “We all love each other.”

  “It’s been great,” said Nichols. “I’m glad I have people that care about it.”

  “It’s just crazy,” said Kimberlin. “It didn’t really hit me (the magnitude of Lone Oak’s special season), until the playoffs.”

  “It’s exciting, I guess, being a freshman,” said Cook.

  Lone Oak will be facing a Crawford team that won the state title in 2012 and was ranked No. 1 for much of this season in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 2A poll. The Lady Pirates return pitcher Carrigan Chambers, who was voted most valuable player of the 2A tournament in 2012.     Chambers owns a 19-1 record this season for the 33-1-1 Lady Pirates, whose only loss was by an 8-6 margin to Salado in the first game of their regional finals series. Crawford bounced back to whip Salado 11-3 and 13-2 in the two remaining games of the series.

  The other 2A semifinal at 3 p.m. on Wednesday pits 35-0 Hawley against 25-11 East Bernard. The championship game is set for 6 p.m. Thursday on the same field in Austin.

  Lone Oak’s success in softball has not only been good for the school but also for the local community, according to Lance Campbell, superintendent of the Lone Oak ISD.

  “From what I’ve seen, for the school, the community as a whole, it’s rekindled a sense of pride,” he said. “It speaks volumes for Lone Oak.”

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