The Meridian Star
The Union High School softball team split its first two games of the El Norte Clarkdale Spring Fling Thursday at Northeast Park, beating Clinton 2-1 before falling to Lake Cormorant 8-0 later in the day.
Brett Whitlock pitched lights-out from the circle against Clinton, picking up the win while only surrendering one hit to the Arrows.
Union got off to a quick start, as leadoff hitter Kristen Kennedy reached base in the bottom of the first inning. After a sacrifice bunt from Haley Morgan, Sam Keneker knocked a single up the middle to drive in Kennedy from second and give the Yellowjackets and early 1-0 lead.
The Arrows battled back with a run in the top of the third, but Union would answer in the bottom half of the inning.
Once again, Kennedy started the Yellowjackets off, reaching first on a walk. Clinton would then walk Morgan and allow Keneker to reach base on a bunt single to load the bases with no outs for Ebony Buckley.
The cleanup hitter did not disappoint, lifting a sacrifice fly to center field to score the go-ahead run. That is all Union would need in the game, as Whitlock shut the Arrows down the remaining four innings to give the Yellowjackets their second win of the season.
“We pitched well, played good defense and hit pretty well too,” Union head coach Jacob Casey said. “It was a great game, and our pitcher pitched real well only giving up the one hit, that was huge.”
Union could not pull off an opening-day sweep against Lake Cormorant later in the day, as the Yellowjackets only mustered up one hit against the Gators.
Averi Ponder delivered Union's lone hit on a double, but it was not nearly enough, as the Gators tagged Whitlock for eight runs to end the Yellowjackets afternoon on a sour note.
“Lake Cormorant is well coached, and they have a really good pitcher,” Casey said. “They hit really well on the day and they are just a good team. We didn't play as well as we could have,but I won't take anything away from them. They are a great team.”
Union will face West Lauderdale at 11:00 a.m before taking on Eupora at 3:30 p.m today at Northeast Park.
Neshoba Central 17
Fresh off of a 5A slow-pitch state championship, it appeared as if nothing can slow down Neshoba Central early on in 2013. The Rockets continued their torrid start to the fast-pitch season Thursday, blowing out Clarkdale 17-5 in five innings during the El Norte Clarkdale Spring Fling at Northeast Park.
Clarkdale's Heather Harwell put the Bulldogs up 1-0 early with a RBI double in the top of the first, but the Rockets would quickly respond with two runs in the bottom half of the inning.
After holding the Bulldogs in the top of the second, the Rockets exploded in the bottom of the inning. Up 2-1 with the bases loaded and no outs, Madelyn McMahon laced a bases-clearing triple to right field and scored on an overthrown ball at third to bust the game open at 6-2. The Rockets would not let up from there, continuing to pour it on with two more runs in the second before scoring three runs in the third and four more in the fourth.
Hailey Lunderman led the Rockets at the plate, going 3/3 with a triple. McMahon, Hannah Williams and Kaila Willis all had multiple hits in the game as well.
After finishing the year as the No.1 slow-pitch team in the state, Neshoba Central head coach Trae Embry said he isn't sure whether or not his girls have a target on their backs. Either way, the extra attention has not hindered the Rockets, as Neshoba Central remained perfect on the season, improving to 12-0 after the win.
“We are just playing,” Embry said. “We are very young, and we play with five ninth-graders every day. I guess it's better to have a bullseye than be at the bottom looking up.”
Neshoba Central 7
The Rockets suffered their first loss of the season in their second game of the day against Poplarville, losing 8-7 to the Hornets at Northeast Park.
Neshoba Central got out to a promising 5-0 lead in the top of the first. However, Poplarville came storming back.
Tristan Wheat hit a home run in the first inning to cut the lead to 5-1, before smashing a grand slam later in the game to tie the score at five.
Wheat accounted for seven of the Hornets eight runs, as Poplarville starting pitcher Rachael Hickman held on for the win.
Ali Pike hit a three-run homer for the Rockets in the loss.
The loss drops Neshoba Central to 12-1 on the season. The Rockets will play Northwest Rankin at 2:00 p.m. and Amory at 3:00 p.m. today in the El Norte Clarkdale Spring Fling at Northeast Park.