Pass Christian ends Lady Cougars' championship run
By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
April 22, 2001
DECATUR Newton County''s dream of repeating as the MHSAA Class 3A/2A/1A fast-pitch state champion kicked into high gear this week when the postseason began.
But Saturday afternoon, the Lady Cougars' bats went silent and the dream season came to a screeching halt.
Newton County, after taking the first game of a best-of-three South State championship series with visiting Pass Christian, dropped 2-1 and 2-0 decisions in the next two games and saw its season come to an end.
The Lady Cougars finished 35-4 and will miss the state title game for the first time in the three-year existence of the program. Pass Christian, which is now 19-3, moves on to play the North half survivor for the state title April 28 at Brandon's Shiloh Park.
The losses came despite another stellar effort on the mound from April Bufkin, Newton County's senior right-hander.
Bufkin threw every pitch of all three games, allowing only nine hits and three earned runs on the day. Still, she finished 23-3.
Game 1: Newton County 4, Pass Christian 0: Bufkin, coming off arguably her best performance of the season in Thursday's playoff sweep of division rival Clarkdale, continued her run with a masterful performance.
She threw only 74 pitches in the complete-game shutout, allowing two hits and walking none. Bufkin fanned four and faced just two batters over the minimum.
At the plate, she was 2-for-3 with the team's only two base hits and a pair of RBIs.
The first came in the bottom of the first inning, when her two-out, RBI single gave Newton County the only run it needed.
In the sixth, the Lady Cougars got three insurance runs all with two out thanks to a pair of walks, an error and another RBI single from Bufkin.
Cilver Armstrong (12-3) took the loss despite striking out 11, and she had one of the Lady Pirates' two hits.
Game 2: Pass Christian 2, Newton County 1: In a nail-biter, Pass Christian got a two-hitter on the mound from Echo Myers and edged the Lady Cougars to force the third and decisive game.
Myers (6-0) allowed just one hit a homer by Bufkin struck out one and walked one.
Pass Christian, serving as the home team on the scoreboard in the second game, got both of its runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie. Jillian Ulrich had the big blow with an RBI single, and Ashly Jenkins scored on an RBI groundout by Brittany Ladner.
Newton County missed a golden opportunity in the top of the sixth when a runner was doubled off second after a long fly ball by Dominique Mapp. That ended the inning, and Bufkin the next hitter in the seventh smacked a home run.
Again, Bufkin had her team's only hits, going 2-for-3. On the mound, she fell to 23-2 despite allowing just three hits and one earned run, striking out six.
Game 3: Pass Christian 2, Newton County 0: The Lady Cougars stranded seven baserunners, including two each in the sixth and seventh innings, as Pass Christian completed an improbable comeback.
The Lady Pirates got both of their runs in the top of the first. Armstrong delivered an RBI double, and scored one batter later on a single by Myers.
It stayed 2-0 the rest of the way, despite a host of rally attempts by Newton County.
In the fourth, Mapp led off with a solid single, but was erased in another Pass Christian double play.
In the sixth and seventh, Newton County stranded runners on second and third. Each time, the Lady Cougars missed potentially game-tying hits when a couple of balls landed inches foul down the right-field line.
Armstrong, who worked out of both late jams, improved to 13-3 with the win, striking out five and walking one. She was 2-for-3 at the plate, while Myers was 2-for-2 with for Pass Christian's only four hits.
Bufkin was again the hard-luck loser, falling to 23-3 despite seven strikeouts and just the two runs.
Mapp was 2-for-3 at the plate, while Bufkin and Jennifer Williamson also had base hits.
Rocky Higginbotham is sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.