The Meridian Star
The Southeast Lauderdale slow-pitch softball team had to claw its way into the Class 3A playoffs, but after sweeping Perry Central in Round 2 with two run-rule victories, 12-0 and 13-2, on Saturday, it is back in familiar territory.
The Tigers are the reigning 3A slow-pitch champions after accumulating a 25-9 record in 2012. After the sweep of the Lady Bulldogs, which was powered by the long ball, Southeast improved to 15-11 this season.
"Anytime you can get two wins in a run-rule it boosts your confidence and I hope we can go into Tuesday's games with some confidence knowing that we have the ability to overcome any obstacle," coach Ashley Bailey, who has been filling in for an ill Mack Fanning said. "When you're the defending state champion, everyone wants to beat you. We just got to stay focused and keep working."
Sophomores Layren Yeager and Timara Trussell each hit multiple home runs as the Tigers launched nine over the wall at Southeast Field. Yeager hit three in Game 2, as did Trussell, but Trussell also hit one in the first game. Dori Timms and Bailey Pickette also had hits leave the park.
"We really got our bats turned on today," Bailey said. "Hitting is so contagious. Once we started hitting it just felt like it kept going ... we haven't hit that many home runs in a game this year, but we have several girls capable of hitting the long ball."
Bailey said Southeast also benefited from stellar defense in both the infield and outfield, despite injury shuffling players around.
"We had to move some things around," Bailey said. "I really thought they stepped it up and did what they needed to do to help us get through today, made some great plays.
On the mound, senior Taylor Powell held the Lady Bulldogs to only two runs over both games, giving up 13 hits through a combined 11 innings, backed by ample run support.
"I felt good. It helps me be confident," Powell said. "We worked extremely hard this year to come this far, and we did think we'd make it but were doing a whole lot better."
The Tigers broke second round action open, attacking for five runs in the first inning of Game 1. Perry Central's Terrah Clifton walked lead off hitter Claire Miller and Yeager back-to-back. Trussell made the mistake hurt, as she doubled in a run with a shot to the left center field wall.
A line drive single up the middle by Nancy Williams scored Yaeger and Trussell. Timms cleared the bases with a two-run home run. Pickett earned the final RBI of the inning with a two-out double, scoring Katelyn Harper, who had reached in the previous at bat with a single, for a 6-0 lead.
After Powell and Clifton retired their respective sides, back-to-back singles by Charia Harbin and Trussell opened the bottom of the third inning. They both scored on Powell's single to deep left center field for two of the Tigers' four runs in the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, Trussell hit her first home run of the day to put the game out of reach, 10-0. Powell retired the final three batters of the Lady Bulldog's lineup to end the game.
In Game 2, the Tigers used three multi-run innings to cut the ballgame short and advance to the South State final.
Yaeger opened the third inning with a lead off home run, her second of the game. Harbin singled and then scored on Trussell's home run – second of the game, third of the day.
A pair of walks gave the Tigers base runners for Powell. She ripped a grounder into right field for an RBI. Harper grounded to second base to induce a double play, but Timms scampered home to take an 8-1 lead.
In the sixth, Southeast added five runs – four off of home runs. Leading off, Pickett unloaded her first career home run to left field. Later in the inning, Yager and Trussell each hit bombs to left field to cap the scoring, 13-2.
Overall, Trussell led the Tigers' offensive output, finished the day 6-for-6 with seven RBIs. Yeager went 4-for-5 with five RBIs.
Southeast will host Choctaw Central for the South State final on Tuesday.