By all accounts, the Lady Cougars appear comfortable in their new home.
The Grace Community softball field opened its new home Wednesday with a win and followed Thursday’s grand opening ceremonies with another victory, racking up 27 runs and 29 hits in the process.
The Lady Cougars defeated Dallas Parish Episcopal 15-2 on Thursday in 4 ½ innings a day after topping Bishop Gorman 12-3 in the Grace Softball Field’s first game.
“It’s good to finally be playing some games here,” Grace coach Tom Alden said.
The softball field came to fruition thanks in large part to the work of the two men who threw out ceremonial first pitches Thursday: Larry Dixon and Don Fleet.
Last year, Dixon and Alden donated a little more than $5,000 for the field’s surface and Dixon used his tractor to create the dirt infield that served as a practice field.
In the past, Grace played in center field of the baseball field that was sloped, leading to Lady Cougars catcher Devin Barnes overthrowing second base as a sophomore. This season, with an even playing field, Barnes has thrown out better than 50 percent of runners attempting to steal second, including two more Thursday.
Dixon helped finish the job this year, even though his daughter, Ellen, was no longer on the team. (Ellen will lead the Lady Cougars golf team at state on Monday.)
“Even though his daughter didn’t play this year, he still wanted to see the job finished,” Alden said of Larry, who was his assistant coach last year while Ellen was still playing.
Fleet helped with the concrete that forms the floors of the dugout and the bottom of the backstop. Fleet’s granddaughter, Taylor Kingsley, struck out five and allowed one earned run on five hits in the circle on Thursday.
“Last two games she’s just been dynamite,” Alden said of Kingsley, who also earned the win Wednesday. “(She) feels comfortable on her own mound.”
The Grace Community School maintenance staff led by Mike Cornelison and Richard Reed helped complete the job, Alden said, adding that Grace Director of Development Tim Connor pushed for the field’s creation and athletic director Jeff Smith made sure everyone was happy after the discus and shot put fields were moved.
The field was originally slated to open March 15, but rain delayed the first game to Wednesday.
With the new field finally ready, Kylee Stanley went 6 for 8 the last two games, with three singles, two runs and an RBI on Thursday.
Grace pounded out 14 hits against the Panthers (3-7 in TAPPS 2-4) a day after recording 15 against Gorman.
“I think it’s a comfort level first of all because you practice here,” Alden said. “To have their friends and people hanging out after school watching, I think that’s why they played better, too.”
Grace’s Fallon Roberts cleaned up at the bottom of the order with a 2-for-3 day that included two runs and a two-run triple. Barnes and Ashley Sisemore had back-to-back two-run singles in the first inning to give the Lady Cougars a 5-0 cushion it would not relinquish.
Grace leadoff hitter Brooke McClenny drove in a team-high three runs to go with two singles. Kingsley drew three walks.
The back-to-back home wins put the Lady Cougars (13-10, 6-5) in strong position for the playoffs after entering Thursday tied with Dallas Christian and Dallas First Baptist at 5-5 in TAPPS 2-4A. Gorman (6-4) currently sits in second with two games left while undefeated Waco Reicher is in first.
After a home opener followed by a grand opening, Grace closes its season with another home game — against Dallas Christian —Monday for yet another landmark game.
“It’s nice to have an opening and then a grand opening ceremony,” Alden said. “Monday night’s going to be ‘Senior Night’ — the last game at home.”
The last game at the new home this year, but the first of many at Grace’s new softball field.
TAPPS 2-4A Softball
Grace Community 15, Dallas Parish Episcopal 2
Par. Ep. 000 20 — 2 5 3
Grace 506 4x — 15 14 3
Gillian Colvin and Haley Block. Taylor Kingsley and Devin Barnes. W – Kingsley. L – Colvin. 3B – GC: Fallon Roberts.
RECORDS — Grace 13-10 (6-5); Parish Episcopal (3-7).
NEXT UP — Dallas Christian at Grace Community, 4 p.m. Monday.