Okeechobee High School’s Halle McDuffie is this week’s Big Lake Athlete of the Week for her performance during the Lady Brahman regional softball playoff win over Olympic Heights on May 8.
Okeechobee pulled off the 2-1 win in extra innings and McDuffie played a central role in both of the Lady Brahman runs scored as well as stopping Olympic Heights from taking the lead late in the game.
The Lady Brahmans found themselves down 1-0 as they headed to the bottom of the seventh inning. McDuffie led off at the plate for Okeechobee that inning and proceeded to blast a lead off double to put herself in scoring position. Lillian Henry then followed that up with an RBI single that brought McDuffie home and knotted things up 1-1.
That run guaranteed the game would go into extra innings, but Halle would also have a hand in preserving the tie in the top of the ninth.
Olympic Heights had already placed a runner on second base when the next batter connected on a ball that found the ground in the outfield in front of McDuffie. Halle reached the ball in time to make the throw to home as the Olympic Heights runner was rounding third base. Catcher Janel Aponte was able to make a leaping grab and come down right in front of the Olympic Heights baserunner to get the out and keep the score tied 1-1.
It was an example of the kind of defensive play that head coach Mary Huff predicted the team would need if they wanted to make a deep playoff run.
“Our defense has to be sound,” said Huff on the eve of the regional playoffs. “Our defense has been a little too inconsistent. If we don’t give teams more than three outs an inning and do our jobs at the plate like I know we can, it should be smooth sailing.”
McDuffie was able to play sound defense and certainly did her job at the plate against Olympic Heights.
Two innings after that defensive play McDuffie led off at the plate again for Okeechobee and again was able to get a base hit. When Haley Underhill connected on a base hit of her own two batters later, McDuffie was able to make the trip from second to home base to give Okeechobee the walk-off victory.
McDuffie has played for the Lady Brahmans during both of their district championship runs in recent years. She was a freshman when the team won it back in 2017.
If you’d like to nominate a student or athlete for Big Lake Athlete of the Week, email the name of your nominee along with what sport they play to Lake Okeechobee News sports reporter Richard Marion at email@example.com.