Central adds another state title
EYES ON THE BALL n Sylva Bay's Katye Tubb snags a short pop-up for an out against Heidelberg Academy on Saturday. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
May 21, 2001
MACON The field at the Mississippi Private School Association's Class A State Tournament may have been as balanced as it has been in the past decade with five or six teams appearing to have a legitimate shot of winning a state title.
But when the lights came on and the dust settled at Mike Thomas Field, old rivals Central Academy and Huntington (La.) School were left to battle for the trophy. And as they have done six times now in the last seven years, the host Lady Vikings claimed the gold.
Central jumped out to a nine-run lead in the title matchup and coasted to a 12-5 win over Huntington, adding another chapter to the storied rivalry. The Lady Vikings have beaten Huntington in the finals in five of their six title runs, and the Lady Hounds from Ferriday, La., are the only other team to claim the Class A crown in the last nine years.
And, as has been the case since 1995 when Thomas won the first of his five softball championships Central was the lone team standing. The Lady Vikings won 18 of their last 19 games and finished 47-13.
Central had to find a way early in the day. The Lady Vikings shook off a sluggish start in a 20-9 win over Plain Dealing (La.) Academy in their opener, then Central staged a comeback in its final at-bat to knock off Amite School 13-12.
That win put the Lady Vikings in the winner's bracket final against arch-rival Kemper Academy, and Central turned in a solid defensive performance in a 3-0 win over the Lady Rams.
Huntington, which lost its first game of the day in an 8-3 setback to Heidelberg Academy, won four straight losers' bracket games before finishing 30-8.
In the championship contest, Central scored four times in the bottom of the first to grab the momentum and tacked on three more in the second for a 7-0 lead. That's far from insurmountable in slow-pitch softball, but it had to be devastating in the minds of the Lady Hounds who were plastered 29-0 on their home field by Central in last year's championship game.
Four Lady Vikings' hits and a pair of Huntington errors led to the 4-0 lead, and Margaret McClure's two-run triple in the second helped push Central ahead 7-0.
Mallory Boykin added a run-scoring triple in the third and Meagan Stokes ripped a towering two-run homer that left the yard in the fourth to put Central ahead 11-2.
Leslie Hancock was 4-for-4 in the title game with a double and two runs scored, and she finished the day 11-for-12 at the plate.
McClure, who was 2-for-4 with her triple, two runs and two RBIs, finished the day 11-for-15. Paula Hummer and Penny Smith both had two hits apiece in the championship game.
Central 20, Plain Dealing 9: An 11-run rally in the fourth inning snapped an 8-8 tie and gave Central a win in its first game of the day.
McClure was 4-for-4 with two triples and three runs scored and Boykin was also 4-for-4 with a triple and two runs. Stokes had a double and two singles and three runs and Hancock had two triples, a single and four runs scored.
Central 13, Amite School 12: Stokes lined a two-out base hit in the bottom of the seventh inning to plate eighth-grader Olivia Reed with the winning run as the Lady Vikings rallied to down Amite.
Central trailed 12-7 in the fourth when Hancock, McClure and Smith turned a dazzling, 6-4-3 double play to kill a Lady Rebel rally. It also switched the momentum, as Amite never got another hit the rest of the way during CA's rally.
The Lady Vikings tied it with three runs in the bottom of the sixth before Stokes' heroics in the seventh.
McClure was 4-for-4 with a double and four runs and Stokes was 4-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. Hummer was 3-for-4 with five RBIs and two runs, Hancock was 3-for-3 with a double and three runs and Reed also had three hits for Central.
Central 3, Kemper 0: In the winner's bracket final, Central beat arch-rival Kemper despite getting out-hit 7-6.
Hummer's RBI single in the fourth broke a scoreless tie, and Carrie Coker followed with a run-scoring hit for a 2-0 edge. Coker, the winning pitcher in all four CA victories, was 2-for-3, while McClure, Hancock, Hummer and Reed all added hits.
Hailey Harbour was 2-for-3 to lead Kemper, which stranded nine baserunners.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.