A moral victory is when the score isn't in your favor, but the whole experience still gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, along with a sense of accomplishment.
Highland wasn't planning on a 7-0 loss at the hands of the Ashdown Lady Panthers in the 4A State Softball Tournament's championship game on May 17 at the Lady 'Back Yard in Fayetteville. More like a 3-2 victory.
However, the five-season-old Lady Rebel softball team, who made their first state tournament appearance and rode it all the way to the final game, were already winners when they took the field.
The physically impressive Lady Panthers opened up the game in the fourth inning.
Ashdown (24-11) loaded the bases on a walk, an error and infield hit.
Amanda Chriestenson knocked a single to Katheryn Bobo, but the junior shortstop couldn't find a base to throw to, allowing Jamie Fleming to score. Sydney Tipton coaxed a full-count walk to plate Bethany Mulholland for the second run.
Highland got out of the inning when Whitney Crook threw Shaina Kirby out at home, and Karisa Hendrix struck out Torie Walthall.
The Lady Rebels got out of a similar jam in the third inning. Ashdown loaded the bases on an inning-opening walk, a single and a failed fielder's choice, but Morgan Thrash popped out to first baseman Alison Price and Hendrix fanned Walthall and Shalie Day.
Ashdown pitcher Fleming started the game by pouring dirt, presumably taken from the Ashdown field, around the pitching circle. It looked like the karma trick was going to backfire on the power pitcher from the start.
Bobo grounded out for the Lady Rebels, but Natalie Culver reached first on a throwing error. Kristen Ellis put down a sacrifice bunt to move Culver to second. Jessica Sellers drew a two-out walk on four pitches, but Crook went down swinging to end the inning.
Highland's next opportunity to score came in the fourth. Sellers groundout to start the inning, but Crook hit a single past a diving Kirby at second base.
Stephanie Shaw laid down a bunt to get aboard and move the runner. The bases were loaded when Fleming made a throwing error to first on a Price bunt. Murphy Williams and Samantha McNulty struck out to end the rally.
"It's usually easy when you get on a roll, especially when you get the lead in a ballgame," said Highland Head Coach Rebecca Rider. "Under the pressure, we just never got going. We had the bases loaded once and we couldn't come through with the bat."
Ashdown secured the win by adding three runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh.
Hendrix struggled with her control for most of the game. She gave up a walk to the first batter in four of the seven innings she pitched. She had 11 strikeouts against eight walks and five hits. The team had four errors for the game.
The Lady Rebels (27-9) only lose three players from this team; Culver, Crook and McNulty. Ashdown will return everyone except Fleming and Walthall. Maybe the two teams will meet again next year on the brand new Lady 'Back Yard.