Civitas News Service
MAN — It has come full circle for the senior members of the Man High School softball team.
Three years ago as freshmen, Taylor Tomblin, Summer Sword, Emilee Osborne, Micayla Gibson, Tabby Ferguson and Rachael Griffith were members of Man’s 2010 Class A state tournament team.
The Lady Billies would fall to South Harrison as their attempt to win a historic three straight state championships was foiled in extra innings in an 8-7 heartbreaker.
No varsity team in Logan County history had ever won three state titles in a row.
Some have won two straight but none for three straight.
The Lady Billies were close.
Oh, so close.
Fast forward three years and the Man softball team is back in Vienna with another run to the state softball tournament.
Those green freshmen are now seasoned veterans and the sextet would like nothing more than to make it back to the Class A state championship game and bring home a fourth state title for Man’s storied softball program.
Man (20-5) advanced to the state tourney with last Friday’s 16-0 drubbing of Fayetteville in the Class A Region 3 championship game at home.
The Lady Billies, ranked No. 7 in the state in Class A, had escaped a 6-5 regional semifinal win at No. 5-ranked Sherman.
Man, riding an 11-game winning streak heading into the state tourney, is scheduled to open state play on Wednesday at noon against Moorefield (26-3).
Two-time defending Class A state champion Buffalo (31-4), winners of 19 straight games, takes on Wheeling Central (21-8) on Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. in the other Class A state tourney matchup at Vienna.
Tomblin returns to the state tournament where she played a critical role on the 2010 Man team.
As Man had to fight its way out of the loser’s bracket that year after a 2-1 upset loss at the hands of St. Marys, Tomblin was pressed into pitching as the Lady Billies’ ace hurler that year, Marlena Frye, had reached her 14-inning limit for the day.
Tomblin ended up pitching for the Lady Billies in the final against South Harrison. She said it’s great to have another shot.
“It feels awesome to get to go back,” Tomblin said after last Friday night’s win. “I want to thank God for being my strength.”
Sword, Man’s starting catcher and a West Virginia State signee, said she is equally excited to play again in the state tournament.
“I’m excited to go back and excited to share it with a great team. All the glory goes to God,” Sword said.
Osborne has been a four-year starter in center field for the Lady Billies, including the 2010 state runner-up team.
“I’m excited to go back to the state tournament,” she said. “My freshman year was a good experience and I couldn’t imagine a greater group of girls going back. We have really worked hard to get to this point.”
Tabby Ferguson, a senior DH, catcher and first baseman and WVU Tech signee, said she’s also happy to be going back to Vienna.
“Going back to Vienna was my goal since ninth grade,” Ferguson said. “I’m very proud of my team.”
Gibson, Man’s starting second baseman, said winning the regional title was a big accomplishment
“It was,” she said. “I’m excited to go back to Vienna and I’ve been wanting to go back since I was in the ninth grade.”
Griffith, a Man outfielder, said she can’t wait to go back.
“It’s a blessing,” she said. “It feels real good to go with this bunch of people.”
Lady Billies’ junior shortstop Cari Blair said Man has worked so hard to make it this far. Man was taken out the last two years in the regional championship game by Buffalo.
“It’s our time to shine,” Blair said. “Those three-hour practices have paid off.”
Junior right fielder Elizabeth Dickerson is following in her older sister Jaclyn Dickerson’s footsteps. The older Dickerson was a member of Man’s back-to-back state championship teams of 2008 and 2009.
“My big sister won two state titles and I want to follow in her footsteps. I’m glad I get the chance to achieve that goal,” Elizabeth Dickerson said.
Casey Albright, the Lady Billies’ starting junior third baseman, said Man can go all the way if it can play well and match the competition.
“This is what we have been working for since we were five years old,” Albright said. “Now, hopefully, all the hard work will pay off and we can win a state championship.”
Kelly Grimmett, Man’s junior left fielder, said the Lady Billies can compete.
“It’s the most amazing feeling in my life. I’m really excited and if we keep playing like we have we’ve got a good chance to win it all.”
Junior first baseman and No. 2 pitcher Madison Keffer summed it up the best.
“I’m so thankful to get the opportunity. It’s go hard or go home,” she said.