The Neshoba Central High School softball team has secured back-to-back MHSAA Class 5A fast-pitch titles.
After blasting Wayne County High School, 10-0, in Game 1 of its best-of-three series Friday, the Lady Rockets showed no let up in Game 2 and in their quest for a championship, pounding WCHS, 14-1, Saturday.
“These girls have stayed focused all season long,” Neshoba Central coach Trae Embry said. “This is what we set out to do. We wanted to be here and win this game.”
After an inauspicious start to the season, Neshoba Central (32-2) managed to rally and band together to become the state’s top team in Class 5A.
“We’ve played well in stretches over the course of the season,” Embry said. “But we didn’t start out real strong. We lost our first game of the year (to St. Martin High School 6-3), but we’ve only lost one more since then (to Germantown, 9-5, April 1).
As defending state champions, the Lady Rockets played the 2014 campaign with a target on their backs, a roll that they eagerly embraced.
“You look at these kids that we have, and they relish the moment,” Embry said. “They want to be here. This is what it’s all about, and if you don’t want to be here then you shouldn’t be.”
Added senior center fielder Katlyn Duke, “A lot of teams doubted us and didn’t believe that we were the best, but we left no doubt that we are the best.”
In the championship clinching win, Neshoba pounded out 14 hits, including five extra-base hits. The big inning came in the second where the Lady Rockets scored eight runs to take a commanding 10-0 lead. The scoring barrage was highlighted by sophomore catcher Hannah William’s three-run home run to straight away center field.
“This is my last year as a (Lady) Rocket so it’s real special to go out with a win,” said Duke, who finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base. “I knew we could repeat as champions. We practice hard and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates. Coach Embry expects nothing less for us than to win a championship every year.
Neshoba maintained their foot on the petal when reaching base, swiping four bases, while also taking an extra base when an arrant throw was made.
“We’ve said all year that we can run really well,” Embry said. “We also swing the bats pretty good, so we try to stay aggressive on the bases, and pitch and play well.”
In the circle, seventh grader Aspen Wesley again tossed a dominant effort, allowing zero hits, while striking out 13 batters in just five innings.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” Wesley said. “Especially playing varsity, I am just so happy. I can’t explain all the emotions that I’m feeling right now. I’ve just put in so much hard work, and the whole team has as well.”
Added Embry, “You come to a state championship game and you throw a no-hitter, you’re special, but she has a great defense playing behind her, and she doesn’t have to strike everybody out. We don’t ask her to strike everyone out. We know we’re going to play solid defense behind her.”
For the Lady Rockets, first baseman Kayla Robertson smacked three hits and two RBI, while shortstop Hailey Lundermann registered two base hits, a stolen base and scored two runs.
With only two seniors graduating off the championship roster (Duke and second baseman Maggie Peebles), Neshoba appears poised to make a run at a third straight championship in 2015.
“The future looks bright,” Embry said with a smile. “It looks good to me.”