Waynesville put up eye-opening numbers at the jamboree against Washington (6 runs) and Rolla (13 runs)

WAYNESVILLE – It may have only been a pair of preseason exhibitions, but the Waynesville Lady Tigers appeared to be in mid-season form at the plate during their softball jamboree on Friday.

Playing host to the three-team event that also included Washington and nearby Rolla, Waynesville managed to tally a total of 19 runs in the two games they played in front of a solid home crowd.

The Lady Tigers played the Washington Lady Jays to a 6-6 stalemate in the first game, followed by a commendable 13-7 triumph over Rolla in the second exhibition.

What made the offensive display even more impressive is the fact that both games were abbreviated as the Lady Tigers played just four innings in each of the two contests.

“At first, we were kind of nervous because we had a really big turnout,” said pitcher Diamond Thomas. “Then we started getting comfortable, just started looking at the pitches and driving them.”

Besides being witness to the offensive fireworks display from Waynesville throughout the evening, fans in attendance were also introduced to some fresh faces on the varsity roster.

Head coach Kelly Jackson, who enters her ninth season at Waynesville, is replacing six seniors from last year's squad creating a large core of underclassmen to try to help lead the way.

“We have a young team,” said Jackson. “We lost all of our outfield plus our third baseman and second baseman, so we had to do a lot of moving around.”

Despite the significant presence of youth and relative inexperience, the Lady Tigers still had their bona fide senior leader starting the game in the circle – senior ace Diamond Thomas.

Thomas, who enjoyed a dominant 2013 campaign that saw her post a 2.45 earned run average, had her share of struggles on Friday, but still received the win while yielding six runs on seven hits. The bloated run total can also be attributed to the jamboree rule that allowed both teams to begin innings with runners already on base throughout the course of both games.

“I felt really good,” said Thomas regarding her start in game one. “I wasn't pitching too well, but I had backup behind me, so that's what I'm really happy about.”

After falling in a 2-0 hole on the scoreboard going into the bottom of the second inning, the Lady Tigers mustered two runs of their own to tie the game – thanks to some sloppy defense by the Washington infield.

The Lady Jays regained the lead the next half-inning with a pair of runs, but would commit a trio of costly errors in the bottom of the frame that would ultimately lead to three runs, and the lead, for the host squad.

A feisty Washington team refused to go down easy, however, as they battled back for two more runs off Diamond in the fourth.

Then, with freshman Paige Johnson at the plate in the bottom of the inning, Waynesville got the gift of a passed ball that scored Deyza Mason from third to tie the game.

The next three Lady Tigers would be retired in order – resulting in the 6-6 final.

For Coach Jackson, the score wasn't nearly as important as how ready her team looked for the upcoming regular season.

“I just feel that we were a little nervous,” said Jackson after the game. “Diamond [Thomas] struggled a little bit with her pitches, but she still kept [Washington] off balance. If she's on, she's tough to hit.”

That nervousness seemed to carry over into the second game as well, as the Lady Bulldogs bolted to a quick 5-0 lead after the top of the second– jumping on junior starter C.J. Parker.

However, nervousness seemed to transform into confidence for Waynesville in a hurry.

The bats came alive for the Lady Tigers in the bottom of the second inning as they rallied for eight runs, while sending ten hitters to the plate.

It was a half-inning that was highlighted by an unlikely source – non-starter Izzy Switzer, who crushed a bases-loaded three-run double into deep left-center field. The hit gave Waynesville a 5-3 lead – a lead they would never relinquish.

“That was nice,” Switzer said in reference to her big double. “I worked a lot this summer with one of the local coaches on my hitting. I'm definitely trying to get past the singles and stuff, so it's nice.”

After Rolla cut the lead to 8-7 in the third, the Waynesville offense went right back to work, bagging five more runs in the bottom of the inning to put the game out of reach.

When it was all said and done, question marks were still glaring Coach Jackson in the face.

While the offense may be a bright spot, there are numerous other aspects of the game that could ultimately spell success or tribulation as the team gets ready for the Lead-Off Classic at Troy Buchanan High School on Friday – their season opener.

“It just seemed like the jamboree caught up with us really fast,” Jackson said. “We still have a few things that we haven't had the chance to cover that we will get covered within the next week before we head down to Troy.”