Raven Jackson let out a scream of excitement as her right foot landed on home plate. The Jackson-Reed softball team’s impenetrable lead had extended further when Jackson rocketed a line drive toward the wall and sprinted around the base paths for an inside-the-park home run.
“I liked that we played good, fundamental softball,” Coach David Thompson said. “We actually got a lot more hits than I thought we would.”
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to impose their will. An eight-run first inning ended with Jackson-Reed (formerly known as Wilson) ceding intentional outs, in which the Tigers would smack a hit but trot to the dugout, so as not to run up the score. Subsequent innings featured more of the same, and the game was never competitive.
Jackson, who finished with a team-high five RBI, also pitched four hitless innings with eight strikeouts. She was named the game’s MVP.
Jackson-Reed’s title run seemed easy, but the Tigers’ journey did include some adversity.
“We’ve actually played this entire season without a batting cage at our field … because a tree branch fell on our batting cage,” Thompson said. “We’ve been struggling around how to get good batting and doing live pitching without a batting cage.”
The Tigers practiced using a “drop-down” cage inside the school, leaving Thompson unable to put together a complete practice.
For Jackson, one of the Tigers’ most powerful hitters, practicing in the gym posed daily challenges.
“It’s kind of hard — you have to imagine [yourself] in the game,” she said. “You just have to imagine you playing. … It comes to you.”
No matter the circumstances, the goals remained clear. The Tigers knew winning the DCIAA title was likely, and now they have set their sights on the D.C. State Athletic Association bracket, where they will be challenged by the city’s top private school programs.
The championship game for the DCSAA tournament is scheduled for May 22, also at the Nationals’ academy.
“Our goal is to win the [DCSAA] championship,” Thompson said. “Right now St. John’s is the team to beat. We hope our seeding keeps us from playing them before the championship, but we hope to play strong enough and well enough to get through to the championship and beat a really high-quality St. John’s team.”