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Up to the challenge: Tough warm-up games have Lovejoy ready for playoffs
Losses are usually a bad thing.
But the Lovejoy softball team has a different take on its recent defeat against Ennis, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A, and split with Burkburnett as the games did exactly what they were intended to do: prepare the Lady Leopards for the playoffs.
"You look at when district ended and when the playoffs start and we were staring at more than two weeks off," said Amanda Douglas, Lovejoy head coach. "You can get a little bored with a lull like that, so these games were a good challenge for us and we played well for the majority of them, give or take an inning or two."
The specific innings Douglas refers to came April 21 against Ennis.
Lovejoy, the No. 1 team in 3A, had control of the game heading into the bottom of the sixth on the strength of a triple from senior Brooke Puckett and home run by junior Brittany Lewis.
"We had them beat," Douglas said. "Then, the bottom just fell out."
Confounded by a string of miscues, Lovejoy watched Ennis light up the scoreboard and pick up a 10-5 win.
"I think we were rusty and sort of working out the kinks," Douglas said. "The girls were frustrated with the errors because they knew they had that game. We are chalking that up to getting the errors out of their system and a performance like that is not going to happen again."
Lovejoy's tune-up tour continued Saturday with a pair against Burkburnett.
After facing a strong left-handed pitcher against Ennis, Lovejoy hitters saw more speed against Burkburnett. The teams split the doubleheader with Burkburnett winning the first game, 2-1, and the Lady Leopards the second, 3-2 in five innings. As decided beforehand, Lewis and freshman Danielle Brochu both threw six innings.
"We wanted to use Saturday more like practice than actual games," Douglas said. "And the girls performed well; they hit the ball and did the things they needed to do."
Douglas was also pleased with the level of competition as Lovejoy cruised in district, winning all 10 of its games by at least four runs en route to the program's first outright 11-3A title. That earned the Lady Leopards a first-round bye and now the team will open the playoffs against Bonham in the area round.
Bonham finished second in 10-3A behind defending state champion Celina.
"Bonham is a good opponent," Douglas said. "They have solid pitching, a good lineup and play good defense."
The best-of-3 series, which will be played entirely at McKinney North, begins at 7 p.m. today with Game 2 at 7 p.m. Friday and Game 3, if necessary, at noon Saturday.
"The girls are excited about finally playing some games that mean something," Douglas said. "And I think they have that quite confidence about them going into the playoffs, but they continue to go out there everyday and do what they are supposed to do; it's the same attitude they've had all year."