One grin became many smiles

Published 4:38 am Tuesday, October 20, 2009

JACKSON — Just before she tossed the final pitch of the final game Saturday, Poplarville pitcher Alysa Graeter looked over at the Lady Hornets bench and gave a little grin to her teammates.

She also shook the ball a little in that direction, as if to say “hey guys, this is it”.

And seconds later, it was.

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It, was the first softball state championship in Poplarville High history. Just after the harbinger to her teammates, the Lady Hornets, the coaches and the Poplarville fans were celebrating the championship.

Poplarville swept perennial power Newton County 6-2 and 8-4 for the Class 4A state championship at the V.A. Fields Complex.

And although the inevitable seemed eminent late in the seventh inning, Graeter seemed to sense the historic moment just a little before the rest of those in attendance.

“Yeah, I knew that was it,” the standout senior hurler and hitter said. “I wasn’t taking anything away from them (Newton County), but I just knew right after the play before that we had it.”

The play before was a pop up that nestled into Graeter’s glove for the second out.

The state title was the culmination of several years of hard work and dedication by a group of five Poplarville seniors that concluded on a cool and breezy day with the Lady Hornets sporting gold medals around their necks and hoisting a golden trophy above their heads.

Just how special was what this group of girls accomplished over the weekend may not be realized for some time. But trust me, it is a memorable event, because state titles in team sports in Pearl River County prep circles haven’t exactly been abundant over the years.

It was just the third team state title in Poplarville High history, and the first in almost 50 years after the PHS girls basketball team won a pair of state titles in the early 1960’s.

The Pearl River Central girls hoops team won a state title back around the time the Lady Hornets were winning theirs as well. That is thought to be the only team state title in PRC history.

In Picayune, the Maroon Tide has won a couple of state football titles, the last of those coming in 1986. The Maroon Tide baseball team was the last county team to win a state title, taking the crown in 2002.

Also, the Maroon Tide golf team won a state title in the past decade as well.

And even if I have missed one or two, as you can see, you can almost count on one hand the number of times something as big as what the Lady Hornets did Saturday has been accomplished in these parts.

I don’t know the exact population of Poplarville, but many of the citizens made the trip to Jackson to see their team in the state finals over the weekend.

And, with the guidance of head coach Jonathan Ray, his assistants and the leadership of that group of seniors consisting of Graeter, Kayla Ross, Kayla Fendlason, Janessa Dedeaux and Kelly Ladner the Lady Hornets put a smile on quite a few faces that were in attendance.

A lasting smile that began with just a quick grin seconds before.

(Curtis Rockwell is the Sports Editor f the Picayune Item and can be reached at