By Rocky Higginbotham / Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
Since an embarrassing loss to Purvis to open the Class 4A state playoffs, West Lauderdale's fast-pitch softball team had been quite impressive in moving through the first two rounds of the postseason.
But Saturday at the Sammie Davidson Complex, the Lady Knights ran into that same brick wall.
Visiting Newton County got a one-hitter from Darby Bishop and reeled off 16 base hits of their own, as the Lady Cougars rolled to a 14-0 victory over West in the opening game of the best-of-three, South State semifinal series.
"We didn't show today," West coach Cary Luke said. "But they sure did.
"We played just about like we did in that first game against Purvis. We just didn't show."
Newton County, which improved to 25-4, will now host the remainder of the series Monday in Decatur beginning at 5 p.m. The team which prevails Monday will face either Poplarville or North Pike in the South State title series next weekend.
The first time Newton County and West battled at SDC this season, the Lady Knights let a big lead get away from them in a 9-8 loss.
Saturday's game was a polar opposite.
Newton County came out swinging, as the first four batters of the game got base hits and the Lady Cougars quickly grabbed the momentum.
"Last time we played them here, they did such a good job of hitting their spots and keeping us off balance," Newton County coach Justin Chaney said. "Today, I think we were a lot more aggressive.
"And I think that trickled down to the other parts of our game. We pitched it well, we hit it well and we played good defense today. Hey, Monday we might struggle, but I'm proud of our effort all the way around today."
Ashton Lampton, Cassidy Blount and Shelby Barrett all had three hits to lead Newton County, which saw every player in its lineup get at least one hit.
Barrett was 3-for-3 with a double, three runs and three RBIs; Lampton was 3-for-4 with a triple, two runs and an RBI; and Blount was 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
Savannah Gates was 2-for-4 with a double, two runs and an RBI; while Latesia Davis (one run), Bishop (one run, one RBI), Abby Reeves (two runs), Shea Alexander (one RBI) and Hannah May (one run) all had one base hit.
In the circle, Bishop remained unbeaten on the season by allowing just two baserunners. She faced just two hitters over the minimum in the rout-shortened game — surrendering a single to Mallory Wooldridge in the third inning and hitting Sarah Lolley with a pitch in the fourth.
Lampton, Davis, Bishop and Blount put together four straight hits in the first inning. In the second, Newton County took advantage of four hits and a West error to strike for five runs and build a comfortable, 7-0 lead.
Barrett and Hannah May got it started with singles, then Lampton drove in a run with her second hit. After two were out, Bishop was intentionally walked to load the bases and Blount followed with a two-run single.
The error allowed two more runs to score to make it 7-0, then Newton County got one in the third inning, four in the fourth and two more in the fifth.