VERO BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Unless you’re the state champion or not good enough to make the playoffs at all, everybody ends the season with a loss.
Filtered through that perspective, and the perspective gained through the devastation of Hurricane Michael, the Marianna Lady Dawgs are still able to smile after Friday's 7-2 loss to Coral Springs Charter (29-1) in the 5A softball state championship.
Lauren Brock's second inning RBI single to the edge of the infield opened scoring, but the a second run driven in by Amari Brown in the seventh was too little too late despite another solid showing in the circle by ace Chloe Temples.
Finding reasons to be pleased about the trip to Vero Beach isn't difficult. After all, the state runner up finish and 27-2-1 record are both program bests.
They get to keep the hardware, leaving behind memories and a standard of excellence.
"That's what we want not just Marianna softball to be, we want the whole athletic program at Marianna High School to be like this," head coach Scott Wiggins said. "They've set the gold standard."
At least 20 wins each of the last four years makes this the most successful senior class in history. Deana Holland, Temples, Brayden Williams, Mallory Barber, and Jayden Sorey also leave behind a blueprint for future success.
"These underclassmen are good! I feel like they're getting better," Holland said. "The girls are getting stronger. More of our younger girls are watching us. We're leading them."
"They've learned that it's just a game, to stay calm, and to always love each other," Temples added. "Always have each others' backs. What matters is that we stay together, we don't fall apart, and that we love each other."
All things considered, making it to the state championship isn't even a result they would have realistically predicted at the beginning of the season, let alone last fall.
Hurricane Michael tore apart their field, leaving its mark far beyond the campus in their community. Clearly, they’ve dealt with bigger challenges than softball and more painful heartbreak than this.
Even so, they fought though it all, and scoring with two outs in the seventh seems emblematic of their attitude through everything.
"Softball never made it to state and I think it is a big accomplishment," Holland agreed. "Especially [after] Hurricane Michael, the damage to our field, it was just devastating. It was something we beat for Marianna."
"I get to come out and do something I love every day I enjoy it and I get to make people happy and come out to watch us," Temples reflected. "It has been a ride. There have been many up and down throughout these last four years but I wouldn't trade it for anything."
The team began the trip back home immediately after the game.