The Lady Bulldogs ended the season with a 12-2 loss at Lemon Bay. The Bulldogs had beaten the Mantas for the district crown in each of the last three years.
This season, however, was different, as the inexperienced Bulldogs had just three starters back from last season’s team ... and that lack hurt them all season.
Lemon Bay made the routine plays and a couple of spectacular plays. And the Bulldogs couldn’t come up with the routine plays ... that was the difference in the game. DeSoto had six errors, seven wild pitches and the Mantas ran freely, with nine stolen bases.
“We have to play better defense,” said DeSoto coach Keith Wallace. “We need to find who will give us the best chance of winning come next season. We didn’t expect to make so many errors on routine plays this year. That came back to hurt us and we gave them extra hitters every game. We didn’t have to worry about that when we played certain teams.
“When we played quality teams, we can’t allow those extra batters to come up.”
That’s what happened as the Mantas scored five times in the first inning—and with a couple of plays made on routine ground balls—it should have been scoreless at the end of one.
DeSoto scored twice in the second inning, as they had three of their game total four singles in the inning. A walk and a pair of fielder’s choices sandwiched around Heather Coronado’s single put two Bulldogs on base. Desarae Omar’s single loaded the bases and Allison Bordner’s base hit accounted for the only RBI in the game. Keselyn Fonger scored on an attempted pickoff play on Bordner at first.
The Mantas answered with two runs in the bottom of the second, scoring in every inning of the mercy-rule shortened game.
“Every loss this season was a reflection of this game,” Wallace said. “We had opportunities to get out of the innings, and our defense just didn’t produce. Most of our games were five- or six-inning games because the other team just kept pulling away and we couldn’t stop them.
“We’ve had to put kids in spots without any experience because of injuries and we were just trying to find who can play where to help us.”
Wallace admitted that he was proud of the growth of some of the players and frustrated with other aspects of the team. Without a big roster, he was forced to use what he had and couldn’t put players anywhere in the lineup because he just didn’t have anyone extra.
A lot of what we’ll see next year depends on how much the players work between now and then. There will be a couple of ninth-graders who can play and help get the team back on the winning path.
The team ended with a 10-14 record, a very good season considering how inexperienced the team was at this level. There is a big difference between JV ball and varsity ball and the experience of this season could help build for next season.