Now in survive-and-advance mode as a road state playoff team, the Jefferson softball team did just that on Monday.
The Dragons will move on to the second round of the state tournament for the fifth consecutive season after beating Luella 10-1 and 9-7 on the road in the first round.
"I am proud of the way our girls survived and advanced through round one," Jefferson coach Kacie Bostwick said.
The Dragons (21-7), who have now won at least 20 games for five straight years, will play a doubleheader Thursday (Oct. 22) in the Sweet 16 at two-time defending Class AAAA state champion Heritage-Catoosa (25-5). Game 1 is set for 3 p.m. followed by Game 2 at 5 p.m. A third game is slated for Friday (Oct. 23) at 2 p.m. if needed.
"I know Heritage is going to be tough, but this year, all things considered, has been the year of adversity for everyone," Bostwick said. "This road trip is no different. We told the girls before we travelled to Luella that we have to be road warriors, and in order to be road warriors you have to believe and leave with no regrets. While Heritage may be a decorated team with good players, I like our chances as long as we show up with the right mentality."
Against Luella, Jefferson, a No. 3 seed, ended the first game in just five innings. The Dragons scored two runs each in the first and second innings and six runs in the third inning to build a 10-1 lead that brought the run rule into effect in the fifth. Jefferson then built a 9-3 lead in the second game, but surrendered four seventh-inning scores before recording the final out.
"Game 1 we played well all the around — offensively, defensively and in the circle," Bostwick said. "Camoreena (Hart) threw well in Game 1. We didn't play our best softball in Game 2. Defensively we weren't sound. Offensively we were trying to do too much, etc. But, we survived and advanced."
Livi Blackstock led the Dragons in the first game, going 2-for-3 with a two-run single in the third inning. She also scored two runs. Maleia Truelove went 2-for-3, while Paige Kelley (1-for-3) drove in two runs.
Camoreena Hart shut down Luella from the circle, pitching five innings and striking out 11 batters. Hart allowed just three hits and issued no walks.
Blackstock stayed warm at the plate in the second game, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Truelove again went 2-for-3, while Taylor Spivey (1-for-4) drove in three runs and Ellie Kinlaw (1-for-3) delivered a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Spivey threw four innings, allowing three hits and three runs (one earned), while striking out six batters and allowing no walks. Hart threw the final three frames, allowing four hits and four runs — none of which were earned — while striking out five batters. She allowed no walks.
Jefferson will move on to face a Heritage-Catoosa team that defeated Mays 16-0 and 17-0 in the first round of the state tournament.
Bostwick pointed to her team's postseason experience — with its run of five-straight second-round appearances or better — as it readies for the next round.
"It's always a good thing when your team makes it to the postseason," she said. "We have been lucky enough to have players on each year's team with postseason experience so that helps in terms of our team knowing what to expect when it comes to this time of year. This team has several young, talented players playing in the postseason, and I am confident that the experience they are getting now will only help us in the years to come."