The 2017 DIAA Softball State Tournament will open next week, with the opening round scheduled for Tuesday, May 23.
With the regular season now in the rearview, the Smyrna Lady Eagles have all but assured themselves a spot in the 16 team bracket when the qualifying teams are announced sometime this week.
Entering Saturday’s matchup against Middletown, the Lady Eagles were just a game behind Sussex Tech in the Henlopen North Division with a record of 13-3, coming off four straight wins including one against Sussex Central in the Play For Donnie Game last Thursday.
“The Play 4 Donnie game is something me and my family were really looking forward to,” said Smyrna Head Coach Nicki Shirey. “It gives us an opportunity to remember my Dad, as well as raise money for a great cause and bring awareness to the importance of organ donation.”
“We were able to raise over $1,000 for Gif for Life and give a great game to the fans with that nine-inning battle - my family cannot thank the community enough for the donations and support.”
Since opening the season falling in two of their first three games, Smyrna became one of the hottest teams in the state winning 11 of their next 12 games.
During that stretch, the Lady Eagles put together a streak of eight straight victories, five of which came against the Henlopen Conference (Cape Henlopen, Dover, Milford, Seaford and Caesar Rodney) while also defeating New Jersey school Arthur L. Johnson, Wilmington Charter and the defending state champions Caravel Academy. .
After a loss to a surprising Lake Forest squad, Smyrna picked up where they left off, knocking off Polytech, Woodbridge and Sussex Central by a combined score of 44-4 before Saturday’s scheduled contest at Middletown.
Aside from their early season struggles against Delmar and Appo, Smyrna has had their way with their opponents throughout the rest of the season.
Only three of their victories since a loss to Appo in late March came by two runs or less, while five came by double digits.
Eight times this season the Lady Eagles have surpassed 10 runs, batting more 20 or more runs across the plate in three games; a 24-0 win over Seaford, a 23-0 victory over Woodbridge and a 21-0 win over Laurel Monday.
Defensively they’ve been stingy too since back-to-back early season losses.
After allowing totals of 10 and 12 runs, Smyrna kept all but three opponents to three runs or less, including five shutouts.
While Smyrna’s success has been a team effort all year long, they’ve seen a number of contributors step up this season led by starting pitcher Jessica Anderson, along with Kaelyn Press, Sara Miller, Lexi Moore, Olyvia Smith, Abigail Mace and Madison Drummond.
After posting a 13-5 record last year, they had hopes for a deep playoff run, however, their hopes were dashed with an early exit at the hands of Appoquinimink.
This year, a talented and now much experienced group will go into the playoffs aiming to get over the early round hump.
Heading into their final two games this week, against Sussex Tech and Middletown, the Lady Eagles are ready for any challenge.
“The girls really have made a habit of learning something new with each game they play,” said Shirey. “They are mentally prepared to go into Sussex Tech knowing they are going to need to leave it all out on the field to come up with a victory and they couldn’t be more pumped.”