Tough challenges await Porters Chapel at state tournament

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 22, 2004

[9/22/04]Before the season, Porters Chapel would have been ecstatic with a return trip to the MPSA state tournament.

The Lady Eagles finished eighth in the state last season, then lost six starters. Reaching that level again didn’t seem likely this year.

Now that they have made it back, however, there’s no harm in improving a little.

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The Lady Eagles open the MPSA Class A tournament today at 2:30 p.m. against South State champion Huntington. PCA will play again at 4 or 5:30 p.m., against either East Holmes or Franklin.

The double-elimination tournament will be played at Winona Christian. The championship round will be Saturday, and PCA can advance with two wins today or end the season with two losses.

“If we lose two, we finish eighth in the state, where we did last year and that’s a big accomplishment with losing six starters,” PCA coach Mike Grzanich said. “But we’re here now, and I expect to win. We’re not going back there saying, We finished eighth in the state, great job.’ Our goal is to win a state championship, same as everybody else there.”

To advance, PCA (23-9) will need to play solid defense. The Lady Eagles allowed three earned runs in four games last Saturday to come out of the losers’ bracket and finish fourth at North State.

Errors, both physical and mental, have plagued them all season and have been a factor in most of their nine losses.

“It’s just little bloopers right between the infield and outfield, and we always give up a run or two in the first inning,” PCA pitcher Lauren Johnson said. “That’s what kills us. It seems like we always have one inning like that.”

The Lady Eagles have worked on their fielding in practice this week, including a two-hour session on Monday. Working out all the kinks can be difficult this late in the season, though.

“When you’re this late in the season, sometimes you can’t show them the right way,” Grzanich said. “You just have to show them the way to get it done.”

PCA will get a boost from Johnson, who is returning from a neck stinger suffered in last Monday’s regular-season finale against River Oaks.

Johnson, who has pitched 22 of the team’s 23 wins and leads the Lady Eagles in hitting, did play in the North State tournament but was not completely healthy.

“I don’t think I was at my best, and I didn’t go as long as I had been,” Johnson said, adding she’s feeling much better this week. “I am. Or, I think I am.”