By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
Following a first-round bye, Neshoba Central softball showed once again why it is one of the best teams in the state, as the Rockets swept Saltillo 20-2, 16-1 to advance to the Class 5A North State championship.
Mesha Jimmie led the way for the Rockets going 5-6 on the day with a triple, a double and six RBIs at the plate, while also flustering Tiger batters and picking up both wins in the circle as well.
“Mesha (Jimmie) brings it every night,” Neshoba head coach Trae Embry said. “She had a hard time early on, but once she figured out everything, she did great.”
While pitching is often overlooked in slow-pitch, Jimmie offers a deadly weapon for the Rockets, as her pitches appear to break towards the batter at home plate. While Jimmie said she doesn't know how her pitches provide movement, Embry said it has kept batters off-balanced all season.
“I don't know how she does it,” Embry said. “She throws it different every pitch. No pitch is the same. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but it is definitely working for us.”
The Rockets pounded Saltillo early and often, burying the Tigers early in both games. Every Neshoba Central player had at least two hits on the day as the Rockets appeared unstoppable at the plate. Hailey Lunderman and Katlyn Duke both had home runs for the Rockets on the day, as Neshoba Central outscored Saltillo 36-3 in the series.
“We hit the ball really well,” Embry said. “We were just being consistent, when we are consistently hitting the ball well, good things happen.”
In Game 2, Saltillo tried to give the Rockets a different look in the field, as the Tigers shifted their infield back in hopes to cut down the amount of space in the outfield. However, even with the adjustments, nothing could stop Neshoba Central on Saturday.
“We faced an odd defense in Game 2,” Embry said. “Actually Tuesday and Wednesday we practiced against that. Their coach told me after the first game, they had nothing to lose.”
With the series victory, the Rockets advance to the North State xhampionship against rival New Hope on Tuesday. Embry said his team is confident, and hopes his bats can stay hot next Tuesday and bring back a North State xhampionship to Neshoba Central.
“We are confident,” Embry said. “We know we have a big task at hand. We are going to play it by ear and just go from there.”