Meridian Star

May 17, 2014

Lady Rockets one win away from state title

By Reed DeSalvo \ The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star

RIDGELAND — The Neshoba Central High School softball team is one win away from a MHSAA Class 5A fast-pitch state championship.

The Lady Rockets (31-2) took Game 1 of its best-of-three series against Wayne County High School, 10-0, Friday.

“Anytime you go into a series, you want to win the first one,” Neshoba Central coach Trae Embry said. “It kind puts all the pressure on them now, and that’s what we came in to do to try and take the first game.”

The series features the last four Class 5A state champions, with Neshoba winning in 2013 and Wayne claiming titles from 2010-2012.

Yet, the two teams looked far from evenly matched Friday.

Neshoba pounded out seven hits in the contest, including a two-run home run by Ali Pike in the third inning that gave the Lady Rockets a 4-0 advantage.

“The first pitch was away, but that pitch was just there and I just smoked it,” Pike said.

Added Embry, “We only had seven hits, but we hit some balls hard but right at them. Hitting has been our thing all year.”

Yet Neshoba managed to reach double digit runs by taking advantage of the mistakes made by the Lady War Eagles. Wayne County pitchers walked eight batters and the defense committed three errors behind them. NCHS made Wayne pay for those mistakes, with five of the walks eventually scoring runs.

“When people get on base, that pumps us up,” Pike said. “It makes us want to do better for our team and want to keep it going. It’s what really gets us pumped up.”

Added Embry, “That’s an attribute to our kids. This type of game and this type of series, they’ve been in this before. The atmosphere really doesn’t bother them, they embrace this atmosphere.”

In the circle, seventh grader Aspen Wesley (18-0) limited Wayne County to just one hit, while striking out nine batters.

“We played defense really well behind her and we’ve done that all year,” Embry said. “But Aspen again pitched really well for us.”

The Lady Rockets scored their first two runs of the game in the second when senior center fielder Katlyn Duke recorded an RBI ground out, and Wesley legged out an infield hit to drive in another run.

Following Pike’s two-run home run in the third, Neshoba scored two more runs in the fourth, highlighted by Hailey Lunderman’s RBI double.  

Leading 6-0 in the fifth, two walks and a single by Wesley presented the Lady Rockets with another scoring opportunity. Kayla McKinion capitalized by lacing a single to center that scored two runners. Two batters later, Madalyn McMahon smacked a two-run double to right that gave Neshoba a 10-0 win in five innings.

For Wayne County, Kayla Bunch recorded the team’s only hit, while Alyssa Singleterry walked in her two plate appearances.

It will be a short turnaround for the two teams as they will square off in Game 2 of the series at noon today, with Wesley again in the circle for the Lady Rockets.

“There’s not much time for adjustments,” Embry said. “We’re spending the night here tonight, so it’s not like we’re going to have time to go get in a lengthy practice. We just have to focus on staying back (on pitches) and continue swinging the bat well.”

Added Pike, “This feeling (of being close to a state title) is just amazing right now.”