By Reed DeSalvo \ The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star
Newton County High School will celebrate its traditional graduation for 2014 seniors at 8 p.m. tonight.
But first, the softball team played Game 1 of its best-of-three series against Houston High School in the MHSAA Class 4A state finals.
The Lady Cougars (33-4) didn’t let the evenings festivities distract them in the least bit, disposing of the Hilltoppers 16-0.
“We probably played our best ball of the year in all three phases of the game,” Newton County coach Justin Chaney said.
NCHS pounded out 17 hits, including six extra-base hits.
“We struggled last series hitting the ball,” Chaney said. “But those young ladies have worked their butts off all week on getting better. They were mad putting up just two runs in South State. But today we were focused, and we did everything that we were supposed to do.”
In the circle, junior Darby Bishop and freshman Dalmericka King combined to toss a perfect game in the win.
“Darby and Dalmericka pitched really good today,” Chaney. “Perfect game in a state finals game, that doesn’t happen very often. We’re such team oriented. We pull Darby (in the fourth inning) and she completely understands that she’s going again tomorrow and there’s no reason to have her in there in a 12-0 game. And Dalmericka goes in and just throws strikes.”
The Lady Cougars scored 10 runs in the top of the first inning, highlighted by Bishop’s two-run home run to center field.
“We just came out hitting the ball hard,” Darby said. “We’ve been working on it all week and that really helped.”
The scoring fest made Bishop’s job easier in the circle.
“I just focused on pitching strikes,” Darby said. “I didn’t want to walk anybody, and wanted to make them hit to get on, and I knew my defense will pick me up behind me.”
And the defense certainly did.
Despite the lopsided win, the Lady Cougars showed little signs of complacency made multiple spectacular plays in the field, including two over-the-shoulder catches by shortstop Ashton Lampton.
“She’s a heck of player,” Chaney said of Lampton. “She makes me look like a really good coach. It’s nothing that i’ve taught her, she just grew up like that. I’m so glad that she gets on these (big) stages and people get to see her because she can flat out play.”
Added Lampton, “Our infield and outfield kept the energy up all game.
This team as a whole has wanted it more than I believe anyone else has. We have two seniors and we love them. (We have) a bunch of juniors and all of us are like best friends. It’s all come together and it’s been a terrific team effort all season.”
The Lady Cougars will play at noon today for a chance to repeat as MHSAA Class 4A fast-pitch champions.
“We have to go win the next one,” Chaney said. “That’s been our motto all year. We’re going to do what we do, and if we do that, we’ll be fine.”
Added Darby, “”If we hit like we did (Friday), I think we will be able to win it.”