BRIGHTON — Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School sports teams don’t have championships to play for at the end of their seasons, but that didn’t prevent the Lady Seminoles softball team from playing like champions as its season concluded in early March.
Eighth-graders Keira French, Jacee Jumper, Janessa Nunez, Julia Smith and Alaina Sweat ended their middle school softball careers on a high note thanks to shutout victories. PECS blanked LaBelle, 1-0, on parent night March 7 and routed Glades Day, 9-0, the following day in the season finale.
The back-to-back wins came just in time to boost both PECS’ record and the coach’s confidence.
“I have seen major improvements defensively these last two games as well as team building,” said PECS head coach Amber Thornton, whose team finished 5-4.
The leap in improvement was evident in the victory against LaBelle. The one-run nail biter came just four weeks after LaBelle handed PECS its worst loss of the season, 16-6. The second time around belonged to Janessa and the defense.
With Jacee behind the plate, Janessa was in control from start to finish in the circle. She fanned nine batters, scattered four hits and issued just one walk in a stellar complete game.
“She’s very confident. She knows what she’s doing. She did a really good job,” Thornton said.
Janessa thrived in tough situations. After a one-out triple in the fourth by LaBelle, Janessa retired the next two batters on an infield pop up and a three-pitch strikeout.
“I usually try to push a little harder so there’s less chance of them getting a hit and getting runs,” Janessa said.
When PECS defense needed to step up, Alaina took charge at first base. She didn’t allow anything to get past, including a hard line drive that she backhanded for an out in the sixth with runners in scoring position.
“She’s very talented. She did a really, really good job. She was on her toes, and she knows the game inside and out,” Thornton said.
Janessa scored the game’s only run when she led off the bottom of the first with a single to left-center and crossed the plate when Jacee beat out an infield grounder.
PECS’ sharpest game of the year earned praise from Thornton.
“They came ready to play. They were all respectful. They all had a good attitude today. This is the game that made me the happiest,” said Thornton, who handed out flowers to her eighth-graders and their families during a pregame ceremony.
The Lady Seminoles carried their momentum into the next day against Glades Day. For the second straight game, Janessa pitched a shutout and struck out nine. Julia, the team’s starting shortstop, stamped an exclamation point on the season with a home run.
The eighth-graders will likely be on opposing sides next year. Julia and Alaina indicated they will attend Moore Haven High School; Jacee, Janessa and Keira plan to attend Okeechobee High School.
“They have a lot of talent. If they stay focused, they’re going to go places,” said Thornton, who was assisted by Brittany Osceola, Dalaney Osceola and Elton Shore.
Brittany Osceola echoed those sentiments.
“We’re sad to see them go,” she said, “but they’re excited to play high school ball.”