In every game during his 13-year head coaching career, Aledo’s Jeff Lemons has worn his state championship ring.
Every game until the two the Bearcats played — and won — this week.
“I don’t ever want to coach another game without a ring from you girls,” Lemons, who was an assistant coach on Weatherford’s 2000 title-winning team, told his Aledo squad before the UIL Class 4A semifinal win over Buda Hays on Friday.
The Bearcats followed that victory with a 10-3 thumping of Ennis (38-6-1) in the title game Saturday, giving them their second softball state championship and first since 2008.
Aledo (33-4) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, taking a 10-0 lead in the third inning and hanging on, thanks in large part to junior pitcher Lauren Craine (26-1), who needed only 86 pitches to pick up the complete-game win.
“I meant what I said when I did that. I wanted a ring with them,” Lemons said. “And I wanted them to have rings, because we had the seniors this year and they put in so much and worked so hard. They deserved it.”
When the members of Aledo’s infield — all juniors — congregated behind the mound before the seventh inning, it was those six seniors for whom they pledged to win this title.
“I was like, ‘Do it for the seniors. Do it for the seniors.’ That was the only thing I could think about,” Craine said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
Craine retired the side in the seventh, getting the first two Ennis hitters to fly out before Michaela Cochran lined out to second baseman Rhylie Makawe for the final out.
Makawe went 3 for 4 and scored twice to earn state tournament MVP honors.
Makawe’s RBI double in the first gave Aledo its first run and one of four it scored in the opening frame. The first four Bearcats batters singled to begin the second inning, when they tacked on two more runs before batting around and scoring four more times in the third.
Makawe, like Craine and many of her teammates, were there when Aledo fell to Hays in the state semifinals last year.
But the Bearcats returned to the state tournament, avenging that loss to Hays and taking down an Ennis team that beat them in the second game this season 5-2.
“Last year, we were just excited to be here,” Makawe said. “This year, we came and we were ready to win.”