Friday, June 21, 2024

Lady Eagles softball team captures state championship

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The Jonesboro Lady Eagles made history this past week by being the first softball team in the district to win the 1A Softball State Championships and to take home the state title. The ladies played a hard and rigorous season with an overall record of 23-7 and 7-0 in district play while winning 22 of the last 24 games of the season.

The Lady Eagles are led by coaching duo Cody and Amanda LeCroy, who are currently in their first year at Jonesboro High School.

Amanda takes on the role of head coach, while Cody is the assistant coach and serves as the girls’ athletic coordinator.

“We were definitely excited to come into this program,” she said. “When we took this job, we knew that we were getting a really good group of girls and athletes, but I really don’t think that we imagined going as far as we did.”

Cody expressed that the duo’s knowledge of softball is extremely high due to having experience coaching at the college level for many years.

“Our ability to communicate with each other in between innings, during defensive changes, with pitching changes, and things of that nature has really given us the leg up,” he said. “The fact that I get the chance to work with my best friend and get to see her across the field every day, I think that gives us the edge.”

He described that it is an awesome feeling to be able to wake up and go to work every day with your significant other.

“At the end of the day, yes, we are husband and wife but when we come to work, it is time to work, and we kind of put those relationships aside,” he said. “But at the end of each game you will see us hug and embrace.”

Amanda said that the two complement each other well when it comes to coaching. “We balance each other out and we work with the girls together really well in that aspect,” she said.

She expressed that she has seen immense growth in the Lady Eagles throughout the season leading up to the state game.

“There was a big difference from the beginning of volleyball season to the end of softball season, and I think that it was about learning how to really fight, compete, and finish games,” she said. “We started seeing it midway through basketball season where they started to really bubble down, and these girls are used to winning, so this year it got a little tougher for them.”

“In our Blum game, we were down 7-0 in the second inning, and we ended up coming back and almost run-ruling them,” she said. “The girls didn’t lay down, and their demeanor changed a lot throughout the year.”

Cody expressed that, on top of softball, the girls on the team are invested in almost every sport at Jonesboro as well. With 29 girls in the athletic program, they do everything from volleyball, basketball, softball, run track, cross country, golf, and powerlifting.

“These kids do everything together, so, from the relationships at the beginning to the end of the year, a kid’s name will be Leighla and will change to Lala by the end of the year,” he said. “All of their nicknames start coming out, and you can just see the growth and how much they work together, talk to each other, and communicate.”

The LeCroys agreed that, from the start of the school year up until now, many friendships have been formed, and the team is now just like a family.

“I was Coach L, and she was Coach LeCroy, but now we are Mom and Dad,” Cody said.

The LeCroy’s are also expecting a baby girl and are currently 30 weeks into their journey. Cody mentioned that Amanda’s grandparents had a softball glove specially made for their little one.

“The glove made it all the way to Austin with us for the state game; it rode in the front seat in the truck with me the entire way,” Cody said.

Amanda expressed that training was kept simple throughout the season.

“We trusted in what we did with them and worked on building confidence and taking reps but didn’t really change a whole lot,” she said.

Amanda said that they talk to the girls a lot about how they are feeling, asking them if they need a break or if they are able to practice.

Cody mentioned that it is all about communicating.

“We want to go 100 miles an hour, and your mind can do that, but your body can’t,” he said. “Some days we would have to push them a little bit, but at the end of the day this group was willing to do what they were supposed to do and to get to that point where we are successful.”

For next season, the LeCroys’ goals will stay the same; they want to win and do their very best, but it will be a little different now that they have a target on their back.

“Throughout the season for softball we were not ranked and were overlooked, but we used that as fuel, and now we are going to be at the top,” Cody said. “They say that the climb to the top of the mountain is hard but staying there is even harder, so now we need that demeanor that we belong here and deserve to be here. I don’t care who you are, you still have to be able to beat us.”

“I think it is going to be about keeping the expectations set as high as we set them this year and maintaining them and not letting them waver,” Amanda said.

Cody said that they are going to enjoy the fact that we won and embrace that, but when it is time to go back to work, it is time to go back to work. He expressed that the goal is not to repeat in softball, but to compete in other sports and make it to the playoffs.

“It is not that our kids are really good at softball, but that our kids are really good all around, and they will compete to the best of their abilities,” he said. “Jonesboro has been around for a minute, but I just don’t think anybody knew who we were. We knocked on the door but now we are going to kick that sucker down.”

The coaches expressed their gratitude toward their only senior, Leighla Hernandez, who recently graduated.

“We have been so proud of Leighla and we have been so blessed to have her - not only is she a great athlete but she is an amazing person,” Amanda said. “She took every role that we gave her and went with it, did anything that we asked her to do, and is one of those kids that is the last one to leave and makes sure that everything is picked up.”

“She is extremely coachable and wants to do what is best for the team and will put her attributes aside for anybody else,” Cody said. “You hope a kid like that leaves a mark on your kids that are returning, and you can’t wait to see her go off and do great things.”

Hernandez’s mother coincidentally underwent surgery the day of the Lady Eagles first game of the state finals.

“It feels amazing to win state and getting to state was the best thing ever, because we barely got into playoffs last year,” Hernandez said. “I played for my mom and got line drives.”

Going into the game, the Lady Eagles already had a lot on their minds with personal matters happening off the field.

“One of our friends got hurt on Tuesday night, and it really took an impact on us because he was one of our close friends,” MVP Emily Turner said. “I know that Tuesday night was really hard, and going into Wednesday morning with him not being there was very hard on us, but his dad came, and we got to see him.”

“We all worked really hard during the game,” Turner said. “I feel like we all played for something bigger, and I think it lit a fire under us.”