Sherman coach Jim Henderson is hoping that the top-notch competition at the Best of the Best will force his players to see how important it is to play their best every inning and not just flip the switch on and off when they need a boost.
"Unfortunately, it was almost like we turned that switch off as soon as we got a lead,'' said Henderson, who has been the Tide's coach since the softball program began about 20 years ago. "We never really did hit the ball with a nice stroke after that.
"[The Hillbillies] gave themselves a chance to win, and fortunately our defense held up. I definitely feel we're capable of more. I still don't think we're playing up to my expectations. I know we can be much better. We still haven't reached that level that I think we can. I'm still waiting for them to get to that point.''
The Tide returns seven starters from last year's squad, and May said that familiarity is a big plus.
"We're starting to jell as a team,'' she said. "The whole infield is the same except for first base. We know each other's skills. Lately, we've been getting a lot more consistent. I think we're capable of being state champions if we play to our full potential.''
The Tide isn't strangers to success. As 9- and 10-year-olds, most of the seven starters played on the Boone Northern All-Stars squad they advanced to the Little League state tournament. Sherman has only advanced to the regional finals three times (2003-04 and 2008).
"I feel like it's our time,'' said Tide junior shortstop Baylee Harless, who went 5 for 6 with two doubles and an RBI on Thursday. "We've grown up together and we play really well together. I think we need to play hard and not come out expecting to win like we do sometimes.''
Paige Halstead rapped out a pair of hits and scored twice for Sherman while May persevered in the circle, surrendering six runs (four earned) on 11 hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Man's Blair finished 4 for 4 with an RBI while Summer Sword banged out two hits, including a triple, and scored twice, and Osborne had a pair of hits and drove in a run.
Sherman and St. Marys both own 2-0 records in pool play, which resumes for Class A at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Best of the Best continues today with a combined Class AAA-AA division at 2:30 p.m. (See Page 2B for results and schedule.)
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.