Thursday, October 2, 2008
Sweet repeat for Lady Pats
Winning a state championship is difficult. Repeating is much tougher.
Marshall Academy got the job done last week, claiming its second straight Class AA state fast-pitch softball championship. It’s the first time ever an athletic team from the school has won back-to-back state titles.
“One more time, I want to say how proud I am of you,” coach Susan Rodgers told her Lady Patriots after they received their most recent championship trophy. “There’s more pressure to repeat, and being able to overcome that pressure is a sign of a true champion.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 24, Marshall Academy traveled to Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland to compete in the Mississippi Private School Association Class AA Championship Tournament. The Class AA Tournament places the top four teams from the North versus the top four teams from the South. The tournament is double elimination with the winner being crowned the state champions.
Marshall, number 1 seed from the North, would face the number 4 seed from the South, which was Oak Forest. The game started slow for Marshall. The first six batters would not reach base. The game appeared as if it would be another pitchers’ duel.
In the bottom of the third Marshall would strike first, scoring Lauren Alexander on a double by Courtney Gibson. Oak Forest would knot it at 1 in the top half of the fourth on the only two hits allowed by pitcher Alexander.
Marshall would add two more runs in the fourth. Scoring those runs were Heather Tomlinson and Casey Gibson. In the fifth, MA added six runs and then scored two more in the sixth to win 11-1.
All of Marshall’s starting nine would put the ball in play and reach base. Alexander recorded the win on the mound, allowing only two hits and striking out nine. Alexander would record her 300th varsity strikeout in the fourth inning.
Marshall would then face a re-match from earlier in the season. The opposing team would be the number 2 seed from the South, Prairie View. Prairie View defeated Winston to advance to the quarter-final game.
“We had played Prairie View in the first tournament of the season at Bayou Academy and were really fired up to avenge the 10-6 loss in the championship game of that tournament,” Coach Rodgers said.
Marshall would strike first in the bottom of the fourth. Alexander led off with a single and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Courtney Gibson. Traci Rodgers would then connect on a single, scoring Alexander. Marshall added two more runs in their half of the fourth starting with a triple from Tomlinson and a single by Casey Gibson. Anna Roberts scored Gibson on a hit to the shortstop. Marshall added an insurance run, going up 4-0 in the sixth on hits by Tomlinson, Roberts and Chelsey Gilliam.
Alexander would record yet another mound victory, allowing five hits and recording six strikeouts. According to Prairie View, this was the first time the team had been shutout all season.
“This was one of the best, if not the best, I have seen our defense play all season,” Coach Rodgers said.
Marshall would travel back to Madison on Saturday to face district rival Indianola Academy. Indianola earned its way to the semi-final game by defeating the number 1 seed from the south, Bowling Green Academy. This would be the best game of the entire tournament.
“We were extremely nervous facing a district opponent,” Coach Rodgers said. “We have beaten them all four of the previous times we have played but you can only beat a great team so many times before they beat you.”
It was a pitchers’ duel. Indianola started the game in the top of the first with a lead-off single. The runner would then move to second on a sacrifice bunt. The next batter reached on an error and the clean-up batter was intentionally walked to load the bases. Marshall would get out of the inning unscathed as the next batter grounded to the pitcher and the third out was a ground ball to the vacuum cleaner at second base, Courtney Gibson. Indianola would not threaten again.
Marshall would get on the board in the sixth inning. Alexander led off reaching second on an error. Rodgers would reach first on an error. With one out and runners on first and second, Tomlinson would be intentionally walked to load the bases. This would prove to backfire for the Lady Colonels. Casey Gibson laid a squeeze bunt down and the throw was in time to record the out at home. The bases remained loaded with two outs and Gilliam would step up to the plate and hit a shot heard around the world. This would score Rodgers and Tomlinson and that would be enough to ward off the Lady Colonels of Indianola.
Marshall won 2-0. Alexander got the win, allowing three hits, walking two and striking out four.
Indianola would defeat Prairie View in the consolation game to earn a berth in the championship game.
Marshall struck first in the third on hits by Rodgers and Tomlinson. Both runners would score on errors by Indianola. Marshall would add another run in the fourth on hits by Gilliam and Roberts.
Indianola would not threaten during the game as the defense of the Lady Patriots would prove to be too much for Indianola to handle. Marshall won the state championship 3-0. Alexander recorded another victory on the mound, allowing three hits and recording seven strikeouts.
Named to the all-tournament team from MA were Gilliam, Tomlinson, Alexander, Courtney Gibson and Casey Gibson.
Coach Rodgers also announced after the title game that all three seniors – Tomlinson, Alexander and Rodgers – had been named to the all-star team.
Marshall (29-4) will travel to Mississippi College in Clinton to compete in the overall tournament starting Wednesday, Oct. 1. The overall tournament includes the top two teams from Class A, Class AA, and Class AAA. It wraps up on Saturday, Oct. 4.
“We are excited about this tournament because we have beaten three of the other five teams in the tournament and tied one of the teams,” Coach Rodgers said.
MA advances to the Overall Tournament this week at Mississippi College.
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