By Doug Gorman
In 14 years as the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals head softball coach, Jeanine Conkle has taken the program from a mediocre slow-pitch softball team to a state contender at the fast-pitch level.
Wednesday night in the finals of the Region 5-AAAA tournament, Conkle celebrated her first-ever region championship with a 7-0 victory against Southwest DeKalb in action played at Lovejoy Park.
"It's just awesome," said Conkle. "I don't know what else to say about it."
Like it has done so many times this season, Jonesboro rode the arm of junior pitcher Heather Lowry, who finished the region championship game with 13 strikeouts.
"This feels great," said Lowry. "This is something we really wanted since the beginning of the season."
Jonesboro now moves on to the state sectionals starting a week from Friday night at Lovejoy Park. At stake is a trip to Columbus and a trip to the state Elite 8.
Jonesboro scored two runs in the second, three runs in the fifth, and two runs in the fourth to pull away from Southwest DeKalb.
Lowry's battery mate, catcher Rachel Nutter, who had the only triple of the game for either team, called the region championship a great way to start the postseason.
"As a senior this is something I really wanted," she said. "But there is more work to be done, and we want to keep on winning at sectionals, and move on to state."
Kala Smith, Nicole Soto and Alarie Smith each had RBIs in the contest for the Lady Cardinals. Lowry helped her own cause with a double.
Southwest DeKalb threatened a couple of times during the game, especially in the third when it put two base runners aboard, but the Lady Panthers left them both stranded.