Italy — Tuesday was a special day for the Italy Lady Gladiators who were celebrating many happenings before, during and after their district contest against the visiting Avalon Lady Eagles.
First, it was Senior Night with the Lady Gladiators and their fans honoring seniors Paige Westbrook (C, 1B), Monserrat Figueroa (scorekeeper, music) and Taylor Turner (statistician). The trio was introduced before the game with Westbrook being escorted by her parents Angie Westbrook and Kelly Westbrook.
Secondly, the first pitcher from Italy’s inaugural 1998 season, Tessa Tovar South, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to honor her former head coach, Johnny Jones, who is currently an assistant coach for the Lady Gladiators. The pitch was a precursor to the days final celebration in which Jones was to have the Italy softball field dedicated to him.
Thirdly, their was the all important game that Italy needed not to take lightly. With several alumni Lady Gladiator players in the stands, not to mention the abundance of cameras and overall fanfare, positive distractions were everywhere.
To Avalon’s credit, they used the distractions to put together a solid first-inning, particularly on defense, to keep the match scoreless going into to the second-inning. Once the Lady Gladiators settled in, however, Westbrook was stoic behind the plate as junior pitcher Jaclynn Lewis began to assert her will. Avalon’s offense began to flutter while Italy’s offense began to take flight.
Outstanding at bats by Bailey Eubank, Kelsey Nelson, Britney Chambers, Madison Washington, Hannah Washington, Westbrook and Lewis kept the pressure on Avalon. Pinch runner Cassidy Childers put the first run on the board in the second-inning and Italy began to roll. Usually a slap hitter, Eubank was given the green light by head coach Wayne Rowe to come out swinging and the junior delivered one big swat after another.
Nelson crunched a double into the left field gap. Speedster, April Lusk did her thing once on base and Lizzie Garcia and Amber Hooker earned timely walks during their at bats. Lewis nearly sent one over the fence to score Eubank and Hooker which ended the game via rule run, 15-0.
The Lady Gladiators did well in handling the distractions to ensure that Westbrook enjoyed her final home game with a win. Coach Jones would remember his special day with a win and the alumni in attendance were treated to a shutout victory!
Following the win, Westbrook was joined by the rest of her teammates for the Senior Walk with Westbrook removing her personalized softball sign from the outfield fence to keep. Coach Jones was then introduced as his name was unveiled above the scoreboard in centerfield which simply read, “Johnny Jones Field.”
Sharing the moment with Coach Jones was his daughter JoAnn “JoJo” Jones who played for her father as a Lady Gladiator from 2000 to 2003 and became an all-state performer in three of those seasons. His alumni players offered congratulatory hugs and then the entire Lady Gladiator Family huddled with Coach Jones for a prayer and their usual chant of, “In Hoc Signo Vinces.”
The fun wasn’t over yet. Tables were laid out with cakes and punch, yearbooks were on display and all the past and present players signed a banner for Coach Jones. The event ended with alumni players returning to the diamond for some fun and games, showing they still had the right stuff.
It was a great day for Lady Gladiator Softball and a very special moment Coach Jones who is credited with starting up Italy’s softball program which has enjoyed amazing success since in its relatively short existence of 26 years.
So here is one last congratulations to Coach Johnny Jones, seniors Paige Westbrook, Monserrat Figueroa and Taylor Turner. Also, congratulations to the current Lady Gladiators for defeating Avalon to put the perfect final touch on a perfect day of Lady Gladiator Softball.
Special thanks to Tessa Tovar South who is currently running for the Italy School Board and to all the alumni players for being so helpful and patient.
Go Lady Gladiators!
Next up for the Lady Gladiators:
@ Covington 4:30pm, Friday-April 18