By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
Neshoba Central set the tone early and held on late, as head coach Trae Embry and the Rockets swept Wayne County 13-6, 2-1 to claim the MHSAA Class 5A state title Saturday at Freedom Ridge Park.
The Rockets wasted no time getting on the scoreboard early, as they cruised out to a 10-0 lead in the top of the first inning in Game 1. Neshoba tallied eight hits and capitalized on two War Eagles during the inning, batting around the lineup and putting the game out of reach early.
However, Wayne County steadily chipped away at the lead throughout the game.
The War Eagles rallied back for three runs in the bottom of the first, while also scoring runs in the third, fourth and fifth inning to cut the lead to 10-6. Meanwhile, Neshoba's hot hitting from the first inning was nowhere to be found.
“Game 1, we scored 10 in the first inning, and then I really think we played not to lose,” Embry said. “We kind of let up and didn't score anymore.”
The Rockets found their offense again in the top of the sixth, as second baseman Maggie Peebles hit a two-run single and was followed immediately by Meshay Jimmie who knocked in another run with a single of her own to secure the first game for Neshoba.
If Game 1 was a slugfest for the two teams, Game 2 proved to be the complete opposite.
The Rockets jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Ali Pike and Kaila Willis both knocked in RBI singles for Neshoba. After that it was all defense, as both teams failed to do anything productive on offense.
“It just comes down to making play,” Embry said. “We weren't hitting the ball in the second game, but we were able to make plays in the field instead.”
Leading the way on defense for the Rockets was shortstop Hailey Lunderman, who came up clutch in the field to stifle the War Eagles. Wayne County loaded the bases in the fifth and sixth inning, and twice Lunderman and the Rockets were able to send the War Eagles away with nothing.
“Hailey has played great all year,” Embry said. “She is one of those people who never misses a practice and is just consistent for us . She's just a good player.”
The War Eagles would get one run in the top of the seventh, however it was not enough, as the Rockets were able to induce a fly ball with two outs to end the game and secure the title.
“When it finally happened, it was a feeling of relief,” Embry said of the final out. “It was over. We came in here, and the kids really bought into what we wanted to do. It has proven that we have a real special group of kids. All that hard work has paid off.”