By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Last year, a late season surge carried Southeast Lauderdale past Choctaw Central and to the Class 3A state championship series.
When the two Division 5-3A rivals meet again today — the best-of-3 series begins at 5 p.m. in Choctaw — the Tigers are hoping that experience pays off with a return trip to Jackson.
"Most of the girls were returning to us and they knew what to expect and what the rewards could be, if everything goes well," Southeast coach Mack Fanning said. "Hopefully, we will play tomorrow with that kind of ambition."
The Tigers have already carried that success over as a senior-laden lineup has provided a consistent level of success throughout the year. Now Fanning, who won two slow-pitch state championships at Newton County, hopes that leadership can give him a shot at yet another crown.
"Our seniors have been very positive for us, especially once district play began," he added. "Denisha Knight, Bri Roulier, Katie Dawson has been a good offensive player for us as well. Bayleigh Booker and Jasmine Bush have been doing some DHing for us and Kennedy McReynolds joined us this year and has helped us run the bases and so forth."
But it won't be easy. Last season, it took Southeast three games, and every bit of those three games, to knock off division champion Choctaw. Nancy Williams hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh of Game 3 to win South State for the Tigers, who won the division this season.
Choctaw took charge early last Thursday in its second-round series against Morton to advance to this point and that potent offense has Fanning concerned.
"They played extremely well over there and we expect them to do the same with that positive attitude that they have," he said.
Slowing that attack, though, is possible for Southeast as its defense carried it past host Franklin County on Saturday in the second round. The Tigers blanked Franklin County in the second game after winning Game 1 10-7. They will need a repeat.
"We hope we can continue to play good defense," Fanning said. "Defense allowed us to beat Franklin County the other day, and they were able to get some seeing-eye hits where it didn't really matter how well you play defensively, they are going to get in during Game 1."