The Meridian Star
The Meridian slow-pitch team went neck-and-neck with defending South State champion Wayne County for three games but ultimately fell a foot short as the War Eagles held on for a 5-4 victory in Game 3 to advance to the 5A/6A South State championship.
Meridian trailed Wayne County, 5-4, in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and Jarlissa Hopkins on first base when Carlissa Hopkins grounded a slow roller to third that Wayne County third baseman skipped past Kaley Williams at first. The ball shot down the first base line as Hopkins rounded second for third and continued rolling as first-year head coach Ray Cook waved her home. However, Williams quickly corralled the ball and fired a strike to catcher Cassidy Bresley to gun down Hopkins at the plate and end the game.
“I had to try and send her there,” Cook said. “We just played a good team, and they deserved to win. We played very good ball though. We played well enough to win, but that’s just the break, sometimes you lose.”
Meridian took a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh before Wayne County rallied for three runs to put the Wildcats’ season on the brink. A bases-loaded single with one out by Dayja Johnson tied the game at 3-3. But, back-to-back pop ups by Miracle Dubose and Amber Carter left the bases loaded and sent the game into extra innings.
Meridian took Game 1, 3-0 as the Wildcat defense held the War Eagles to just five hits. Wayne County battled back in Game 2 erupting for 10 runs to invoke the mercy rule for a 10-0 win in five innings.
Johnson led the Wildcats, going five-for-six with a run batted in for the series. Johniqua Hopkins was also key for Meridian racking up four hits on the day.
The series loss ends a magical season for the Wildcats after many expected Meridian to fall short of the playoffs. Cook said his team will look to regroup and come back just as strong for the fast-pitch season.
“We’ve improved greatly this season,” Cook said. “We’ve made big strides, and we are going to get there. It’s a work in progress, but we are going to get there.
“It motivates us, because we made it so far and nobody even picked us to have a winning season. They are going to be sad for a day or two, but life goes on. We are going to be back to play some fast-pitch ball, and we are going to win some games.”