The Meridian Star
It was an easy day for the Quitman softball team on Saturday, as they breezed into the second round of the 4A state playoffs, beating Tylertown 6-0 in Game 1 before finishing the series with a 16-0 win in Game 2.
“We felt like if we could keep their confidence down early, we could do the things we needed to do,” Quitman coach Eric Neel said. “It was very important that we jumped out early, it was definitely part of out game plan.”
Quitman starter Abigail Toomey was dominant from the circle in Game 1, throwing six innings of no-hit baseball for the Panthers while striking out seven batters.
“She was spotting that thing up very well,” Neel said. “She changed speed well. That's the best she has thrown in a very long time. It's definitely the right time for her to be doing that.
Toomey also went 2-4 at the plate with five RBIs in Game 1, including a bases clearing triple in the third. Mallory Lee had a big game for Quitman, hitting an inside-the-park home run to center.
The Panthers began Game 2 by leaving runners on second and third with two outs. However, after Toomey shut down the Chiefs in order, the Quitman bats began to heat up.
Lee started the inning with a single and proceeded to steal second base two pitches later. After a ground out moved Lee third, she would score on a passed ball to put the Panthers up 1-0. Later in the inning, Whitney Neely ripped a two-out RBI triple to left to give Quitman a 2-0 lead. The Panthers would then string together three-straight hits to break the game open at 5-0 .
Toomey shut down the Cheifs again in bottom of the second and Kallie Belcher took over in the bottom of the third to complete the shutout for Quitman in four innings.
“I think we are peaking at the right time,” Neel said. “I certainly hope we are. If we stick to our game plan, we will continue to do that.”
Quitman will move on to face Poplarville and talented pitcher Rachel Hickman on Friday at Quitman; Game 2 and Game 3, if necessary, will be played in Poplarville. Hickman (21-2) is one of the top pitchers in the state, compiling 261 strikeouts on the year. While Neel said his girls will enjoy the win, the focus now turns to beating a Poplarville team that has only lost twice all season.
“It's easy to be humbled when you know what you are going to face pretty soon,” Neel said. “We are going to see one of the best pitchers in Mississippi. We are just going to try to put a good bat on the ball.
“Friday is huge for us. If we can get that one, all we have to do is scrap for one more when we head down to their place. It's just very big for us.”