Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007
With the chants of “We are Marshall” ringing in the air around them, the Lady Patriots made school history for the second time this season.
The Marshall Academy fast-pitch softball team won its first Mississippi Private School Association Class AA state championship Monday at Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland.
“I have never been so proud of this bunch of scrappy girls,” said head coach Susan Rodgers. “They have worked so hard and have come so far to win this championship trophy.”
The state crown follows the school’s first North Half title, too. The fast-pitch program was started at MA in 2002.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Rodgers said a few minutes after her team received a police escort onto campus Tuesday morning.
Marshall, number one team from the north, beat Centreville, top team from the south, twice Monday for the championship. The Lady Patriots were unbeaten in the two-day event.
In MA’s first game Monday, the momentum shifted the Lady Patriots’ way from the very beginning when they won the toss and elected to be the home team.
Marshall would strike first in its half of the third. Allie Kriss led off the inning by being hit by a pitch. Casey Gibson followed with a walk. Mandy Bolden moved them to second and third. Then Heather Tomlinson drove both of them in with a single.
Centreville answered in the top of the fourth, scoring two runs. Centreville took the lead in the top of the fifth, scoring two more runs, making the board read 4-2.
But the Lady Patriots answered in their half of the fifth. Lauren Alexander led off, reaching first on an error. Bolden then hit a shot to left center, scoring Alexander. Bolden reached third. Traci Rodgers drove her in with a single and knotted the score at 4-all.
Time would expire, causing the game to go into an international rules tiebreaker. In a tiebreaker, the last completed at bat from the previous innings starts out on second with no outs.
Centreville’s first batter laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to third. The next batter bunted to MA’s Casey Gibson. She field the ball clean and tossed to catcher Heather Tomlinson, who then blocked the plate for out number two. The next batter hit into a force-out.
It would then be Marshall’s turn. Alexander started out on second base. With one out, Rodgers hit a single, putting runners at first and third. Rodgers took off to second on the next pitch and Centreville tried a trick play that backfired. Centreville threw the ball to third, trying to catch Alexander sleeping. The third baseman missed the ball, allowing Alexander to score the winning run – Marshall 5 Centreville 4.
Alexander earned the victory on the mound with three strikeouts and two walks, and she allowed four hits.
Assistant coach Carlton Gibson said the out at home in the tiebreaker was the big play.
“We practice this play regularly and it really paid off in the end,” he said.
Centreville then beat Columbia to earn a berth in the championship game.
“I felt very confident in our girls,” Coach Gibson said. “It would be Centreville’s third game of the day and if we are on our ‘A game,’ I don’t believe anyone can beat us back-to-back.”
Centreville started out the top of the first by scoring on a error. Bases were loaded with one out and they only scored one run. MA had three errors in the first and only allowed the one run.
Marshall’s defense settled down the rest of the game.
The Lady Patriots answered in the first, scoring Bolden on a single by Rodgers.
Each team had runners on base in every inning.
The game-winner came in the bottom of the fourth. Casey Gibson led off with a walk. Alexander moved her to second on a sacrifice. Bolden reached first on a third dropped strike which also moved Gibson to third.
On the next pitch Bolden took second on a delayed steal. Rodgers lined out to the pitcher. Tomlinson then grounded to the shortstop, which looked to be a routine play. The Centreville first baseman dropped the ball, allowing the game-winning runs to score.
Centreville had two more innings to answer. Alexander took full command on the mound the next two innings with three of her four strikeouts in the last two innings.
“I believe her fastball was three or four miles per hour faster those last two innings,” Coach Gibson said.
The final score was Marshall 3 Centreville 1.
“I’m leaving here a champion,” said Bolden, senior shortstop. “Thank you Lady Patriots – I love you.”
The team’s other two seniors are Allie Kriss and Brittney Tomlinson.
The Lady Patiots, 27-11 on the season, advance to the MPSA Overall Tournament this week. They opened play Wednesday at Mississippi College. The tourney wraps up Saturday.
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