Lady Cougars take big win over West Lauderdale
SHE'S SAFE! – Newton County's Kristin Chaney is safe at second against West Lauderdale's Amy Frazier after she tagged up from first on a fly out to left field. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Rocky Higginbotham / special to The Star
Oct. 2, 2002
DECATUR As ironic as it may sound, Newton County's softball team experienced its low and high points of the 2002 season last Saturday.
Tuesday night, the defending Class 3A state champion Lady Cougars rode the momentum from that high point to a big Division 5-3A win.
Newton County got a few timely hits and played an error-free seven innings, beating arch-rival West Lauderdale 5-1 in front of a big home crowd.
Last month, the Lady Cougars committed six errors and gave up five unearned runs in a 6-2 loss at Collinsville. But Tuesday night, the Lady Cougars didn't make a single error and took advantage of two miscues by West.
The win lifted Newton County to 19-4 overall and 10-1 in the division, while West Lauderdale fell to 18-5 and 9-2. The Lady Cougars can officially wrap up the division crown Thursday at home against Philadelphia.
Just three days ago, it didn't seem like Newton County was getting ready to wrap up any titles. The Lady Cougars dropped their first two games in the Meridian Community College Tournament and scored only one run in a 13-inning stretch. But they turned it around Saturday night when they beat two-time defending Class 4A state champ and No. 1 ranked New Hope.
Newton County, with eight seniors returning from last year's Class 3A title team that went 34-3, earned the win over West with big plays from those seniors.
Johnson's triple to lead off the second inning helped Newton County erase a 1-0 deficit, as she scored one batter later on a sacrifice fly by Lauren Barrett.
Newton County took the lead for good in the fourth when Dominique Mapp doubled, took third on a fielder's choice and scored on the game's first error.
In the fifth, the Lady Cougars got some breathing room with a three-run rally. Jessica Sheehan started it with a single, then Holly Jackson reached on a fielder's choice.
With two out, Suzanne Chaney singled to left, and Shelly Ferguson followed with an RBI single to make it 3-1. Mapp then torched a ball to right field that was bobbled, and two runs came around for a 5-1 edge.
West, which had 10 consecutive batters retired from the second to fifth innings, had its only serious rally of the game in the sixth when J.J. Huggins' fly ball with runners on second and third was hauled down at the wall.
Huggins gave the Lady Knights a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with a monster solo home run, but it was just one of seven hits West mustered for head coach Jerry Boatner.
Losing pitcher Kristina Gardner was the only multiple hitter for West, while Mapp was 2-for-2 with a double and Kristin Chaney 2-for-3 to lead Newton County.
The two teams, as they have 10 of the last 12 years, could still meet again in the postseason, and may not have to wait that long. Newton County has a four-team tournament set for Saturday, with West taking on Neshoba Central at 11 a.m. and the Lady Cougars battling Northeast Lauderdale at 12:15 p.m.
The losers of the first two games meet in a consolation contest at 1:30, with the winners battling in the championship at 2:45.