STATE CHAMPS!!!Published 7:32am Sunday, October 18, 2009
By CURTIS ROCKWELL
Item Sports Editor
JACKSON — Poplarville rewrote the school’s history pages Saturday afternoon.
Actually, the Lady Hornets started their own book.
Poplarville blew by Newton County 6-2 and 8-4 to capture the Class 4A state slow pitch softball championship at the V.A. Fields Complex here.
With the sweep in the best of three state finals series, the Lady Hornets captured the first ever softball state title in school history and just the second ever state championship in a team sport in the history of the school.
The state crown was a culmination of a foundation laid by veteran head coach Jonathan Ray, now in his ninth year at the helm of the Lady Hornets.
“This has always been the ultimate goal,” Ray, whose team finishes the season at a spectacular 28-2, said. “We finally got here and we played liked we hoped we would. We relied all season on pitching and defense and getting the hits when we needed them. It’s a great feeling.”
It’s been almost 50 years since a state title was won in a team sport at Poplarville High as the Lady Hornets basketball team won a title in the early 1960’s.
“It took a lot of hard work, but this makes it all worth it,” Poplarville standout pitcher and hitter Alysa Graeter said. Grater finishes the season at 27-1 on the mound after winning both games Saturday.
“You always hope that it’s something you can do, but until your here you never know if you will have a chance. We wanted to make sure we took care of things once we got here.”
Poplarville trailed only briefly all day long, as the Lady Cougars took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first frame.
But the Lady Hornets set the tone for the rest of the proceedings immediately, taking a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the stanza as Kayla Fendlason and Paige Miller drove in runs.
They extended that advantage to 4-1 in the third, as Miller cracked an RBI-double and Kelly Ladner had a run scoring single.
Poplarville secured the opening game win with two more runs in the sixth, as Ashton Rogers drove in a run and another run scored on a NCHS error.
Miller had three hits in game one, while Janessa Dedeaux, Branda Northrop and Graeter all added two hits apiece to the winning cause.
Newton County had played in five straight Class 3A state championships and won four including two straight before moving up to Class 4A this season.
“I was concerned about their experience, because we knew they had a lot of tradition and had been here before,” Ray added. “But our girls never let it become a factor. They handled it well.”
Did they ever.
Poplarville pounced on NCHS again quickly in game two, scoring five runs in the top of the first inning.
Ladner had a two run double while Rachel Breland, Nicole Smith and Micah Davis all drove in runs in the rally as well.
The Lady Cougars didn’t quit, though, and rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Poplarville, however, wrapped up the win by adding three more runs in the seventh as Dedeaux and Fendlason had RBI-singles.
Grater had three hits in the final game, while Breland and Miller had to hits apiece as well.
Graeter, Breland, Fendlason, Dedeaux and Kayla Ross comprised the senior class on this Lady Hornet team that brought the hardware home.
“It all goes back to those seniors,”Ray cncluded. “Each year they took another step in the playoffs.”
And the final step was into the history book.