Lady Flashes eager to end a long softball playoff drought

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2023

When he came on board as St. Aloysius’ softball coach, Mike Foley wasn’t sure what he’d find.

A team in disarray? One ready to ascend to the top of the MAIS standings? Or just a program needing a push in the right direction?

He was pleasantly surprised to find exactly what he was hoping for — a young roster that is hungry to win and set up for the kind of sustained success he wants to build.

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“We’re in really good shape. We’re yards ahead of where I expected to be. We have a very good group, and there are some outstanding kids in each age group,” Foley said. “(Former coach Savannah Buck) played a lot of eighth-graders last year and it benefited them. We are in really good shape as far as the talent pool. The outlook is really good for the future, also, because we have some really good seventh-graders.”

St. Al will begin its 2023 schedule on July 28, with a home game vs. Madison-St. Joe at the Betty Hearn Softball Complex. It’s the start of a new era, as Foley takes over for the departed Savannah Buck, and also the next step in a rebuilding process.

The Lady Flashes finished 9-15 in 2022, their best record since moving from the MHSAA to the MAIS in 2015. The only seniors on the roster are catcher Maddy McSherry and infielder Raegan Thornell. Most of the starers are back from last year.

McSherry batted .369, with five doubles and a team-high 14 RBIs in 2022. Outfielder Ali Grace Luke hit .354 and scored 19 runs. And returning in the pitcher’s circle is junior ace Kyleigh Cooper, who had 152 strikeouts in 127 1/3 innings.

Cooper also led the team with a .424 batting average.

The returning talent has the Lady Flashes confident they’re ready to climb the next rung on the ladder to success.

“Last year we had a great season. That was one of our best in a long time. Just the progression, I think we can definitely make it to the playoffs this year,” McSherry said.

Foley said a main focus of his offseason program was keeping his players fresh. The team maintained a regular practice schedule in June, then took the first two weeks of July off before returning to begin the run-up to the opener.

The MAIS softball season starts in late July, and St. Al’s last game is on the first official day of fall, Sept. 21.

“At this point last year we were practicing for six months and we were all almost dead. We were burned out and the season wasn’t even started,” Cooper said. “He’s trying to keep us fresh and it’s really shown because we’re having a lot of fun.”

The Lady Flashes only had one summer game to gauge their progres, but were encouraged by it. They lost 4-3 to Warren Central when the Lady Vikes scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning. St. Al outhit WC 8-7, and Cooper had four strikeouts in six innings pitched.

Cooper said she was more impressed with how the Lady Flashes played than the final result.

“When errors were made, we didn’t shut down. We built each other back up. We were able to come back from it and continue to play as a team,” Cooper said.

Another big goal for the Lady Flashes is reaching the playoffs. They haven’t been to the postseason since joining the MAIS eight years ago.

If they needed some extra incentive to end that drought, the Class 5A state tournament — the MAIS plays a double-elimination tournament rather than a traditional series-based playoff bracket — will be in Vicksburg.

Foley said there was no extra pressure on the Lady Flashes in having to qualify for a tournament that’s in their hometown. Instead, he hopes it’s a defining moment for the program.

“If there’s no pressure, then it’s probably not a good deal. So there’s got to be some pressure. I put pressure on myself to do the best job I can do all the time, so I don’t perceive it as additional pressure,” he said. “I said when I took the job I wanted to make the playoffs and be a program for the future. That’s really what this is all about, is building a program for the future that’s long lasting and not a two-year run.”

All games at 6 p.m. unless noted
July 28 — Madison-St. Joe
July 31 — at Tallulah Academy, 4:15 p.m.
Aug. 3 — Riverfield, 4 p.m.
Aug. 5 — Jackson Victors, TBA
Aug. 5 — Discovery Christian, TBA
Aug. 7 — at Madison-St. Joe
Aug. 8 — at Simpson Academy
Aug. 10 — Central Hinds
Aug. 14 — Carroll Academy
Aug. 19 — at MRA Jamboree, TBA
Aug. 21 — *Adams County Christian
Aug. 22 — *at Cathedral
Aug. 24 — Simpson Academy
Aug. 28 — *Copiah Academy
Sept. 5 — Jackson Academy, 4 p.m.
Sept. 7 — at Jackson Victors
Sept. 9 — *Providence Classical, Noon (DH)
Sept. 11 — *at Adams County Christian
Sept. 12 — *at Copiah Academy
Sept. 13 — Jackson Academy
Sept. 18 — *Cathedral
Sept. 19 — at Riverfield, 4 p.m.
Sept. 21 — Tallulah Academy, 4:15 p.m.
*MAIS District 4-5A games

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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