Softball coach Justin Chaney has never shied away from telling the media — or anyone else —that the goal each season at Newton County High School is to win a state championship.
Today, Chaney’s slow-pitch Cougars will have that opportunity for the eighth consecutive year.
Newton County will battle Corinth today in a best-of-3, Class 4A state championship Series at Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland. Game 1 is set for 12:30 p.m., Game 2 is tentatively set for 3 p.m.
On paper, the rematch of last year’s Class 4A title series shapes up to be a dandy.
No. 1 ranked Newton County is 31-1; No. 2 ranked Corinth has won 13 of its last 14 games.
“It’s going to be tough,” Chaney said. “They’ve got a lot of big bats and a lot of experience. It ought to be fun.”
Newton County, of course, is aiming for a Class 4A three-peat. The Cougars have won a slow-pitch title four of the last five years and have seven slow-pitch titles.
The team is also coming off a dominating 35-0 season that was part of a 68-game winning streak ended earlier this year. But Newton County lost five seniors off last year’s team, including its top four hitters.
“That’s what’s makes this so exciting,” Chaney said. “This team is entirely different. It has its own identity. A lot of folks thought we might struggle after losing those five. That group accomplished a ton for this program.
“But here we are at 31-1. That’s pretty amazing and it’s a tribute to these girls and how hard they’ve worked. They bust it every day in practice and they do the things necessary to win ball games.”
The team sports just one senior and has a starting lineup made up entirely of underclassmen.
First baseman Shea Alexander, second baseman Latesia Davis, shortstop Ashton Lampton, third baseman Darby Bishop and pitcher Meagan Higginbotham make up an all-sophomore infield.
Juniors Mary Snowden, Savannah Gates and RoNeisha Brown are in the outfield, junior Hannah May is behind the plate, and sophomore Shelby Barrett is in the outfield.
Corinth, meanwhile, returns all but one player from last year’s state runnerup team.
Playing a brutal schedule, the 27-7 Warriors got out of the gate slow but have won 13 of 14 since a Sept. 18 loss to Itawamba AHS.