Prep softball: East clinches its first-ever region title
Since softball's inception at East in 1990, the team has seen postseason play but never reigned supreme in Region 6 until Thursday.
Downing Judge Memorial 21-1, East rode the arm of sophomore Liki Lokeni and the entire Leopards lineup into the state championship tournament. A five-pitch righty, Lokeni praised her squad for remaining focused throughout the season and is excited about postseason play starting on Tuesday.
"I can't believe we've never won it before," Lokeni said. "It feels great to be the first to do it at East. I'm so proud of my team for getting the job done."
While they chatted and screamed from the dugout, it was the Leopards' patience at the plate that paid dividends. Working pitch counts and drawing walks, they took advantage of passed balls to build a 10-0 lead in the first. Lokeni helped her cause in the second by crushing a first-pitch moonshot over the left wall for a grand slam.
"[As the second hitter] my job is to move people, and hits like this help me mentally to get ready for state," Lokeni said. "As a veteran player, I need to make sure all of our jitters are out before we start our run."
Catcher Laina Sue-sue said that Lokeni has improved dramatically throughout the season. She commented that Lokeni's curve has more movement and there is more power on the fastball.
"I'm so proud how hard she worked to improve every day," Sue-sue said. "It's going to be hard for [hitters] to get at her rise and fastball in state."
Sue-sue hit the Leopards' second grand slam in the third. It was her fifth home run on the year. Sue-sue believes that the Leopards are peaking as the right time and hopes to avoid first-round elimination like last year.
"As long as we keep talking and fighting, I think we're going to do great," Sue-sue. "This is our second time going to state and I want to make sure we do way better than last year."
R East secures a share of its first region title in school history. Clearfield has a chance to share by winning its last two games.
• Liki Lokeni and Laina Sue-sue both hit grand slams.