FULL COVERAGE: Neshoba Central win 5th consecutive State Championship after defeating Picayune 3-0, 6-2

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2017

RIDGELAND — The dazzling duel on the mound between Picayune’s Megan Dudenhefer and Neshoba Central’s Aspen Wesley was a toe-to-toe contest in game one of the 5A State Championship Thursday, both tallying numerous strikeouts and allowing only five hits between both opponents.

However, the difference in the game came in the top of the second inning when the Lady Rockets’ Madalyn Thompson hit a solo home run over left field to give the four-time state champions a 1-0 lead.

“Megan did a great job picking her spots and pitched a great game. We just have to make a few adjustments in the batter’s box to come out with a different result tomorrow,” Picayune Head Coach Kristi Mitchell said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

After Thompson’s home run, both teams had difficulty reaching the base, retiring batters through the fifth inning. But in the sixth, the first base hit since the home run sparked a Lady Rockets short rally as Tenly Grisham brought home teammate Kylee Thompson, who previously hit the fence for a double. The ensuing batter, Makenzie Barnett, then doubled before Tori Henderson popped a sacrifice fly in the infield to give her team a 3-0 cushion heading into the final inning.

With one out, Elizabeth Taggard, the only Lady Tide to get a base hit with two singles, hit a line drive to the third base, giving Picayune hope for possibly a seventh inning rally. Unfortunately, the Lady Tide could not connect on Lady Rockets pitches and fell 3-0 in game one.

Dudenhefer pitched one of her best games against Neshoba Central, allowing only three hits while walking none and pounding 10 strikeouts of which six came in the first two innings. Taggard had two singles to lead the Lady Tide at the plate.

Lady Rockets’ Wesley pitched a two-hitter in game one, framing nine strikeouts while conceding two hits and one walk.

“We got to wake up tomorrow and play the game. There is no reason why they can’t come out here and play. We know we can hit the ball, we know we can play defense and we know we can pitch with them,” Mitchell said.

In game two, Picayune did exactly what Coach Kristi Mitchell preached they had to do in order to win game two against Neshoba Central Friday afternoon, but Picayune committed unfortunate errors that led to the team’s downfall as the Lady Rockets won its fifth consecutive State Championship.

“The girls knew that the game came down to who committed the least amount of errors, and today that unfortunately was us,” Mitchell said. “This group cannot hang their heads though because they accomplished a lot this season and are champions in every way.”

Game two took a different approach than the game before, with both teams finding base hits. However, a deja vu moment happened for Neshoba Central as the defending champions Aspen Wesley hit a solo home run in the second inning to take an early lead.

Then, a crucial pop fly drop from Picayune’s Marissa Mcdonald resulted in an RBI double for Makenzie Barnett to make it 2-0 in the third inning.

Later in the same inning, a wild pitch swiftly crossed the face of the Picayune dugout and because it hit Mitchell’s foot in live ball territory, the Lady Rocket base runner at third base was allowed to make it home for Neshoba Central’s third run of the game.

To help her team get back in the game, Alyssa Pinero pounded a double to the centerfield fence in the fourth, to later be hit home by Megan Dudenhefer’s RBI single, to give Picayune its first run of the State Championship.

Neshoba Central did not skip a beat after Picayune scored, earning two more runs to increase the team’s lead 5-1.

In a final attempt to get back into the game, Mcdonald singled for an RBI to bring the score to 5-2, but unfortunately it was not enough to get past the defending champions as Picayune lost 6-2.

“These girls wouldn’t get to the State Championship if they weren’t special. When they were 8 and 10-years-old, they and their parents made a commitment to softball and that commitment showed this season,” Mitchell said. “When they came back against Long Beach in game three, they knew they could beat that team and they came into the State Championship with that same mentality, knowing they could beat Neshoba Central. But unfortunately we didn’t have any balls bounce our way.”

With a trip to the State Championship, Mitchell and the 2016-17 Picayune softball team put Picayune on the map for Mississippi softball.

Pinero led the team with two hits, a single and double, Mcdonald also had two hits, both singles. Dudenhefer also had a single for an RBI.

Dudenhefer pitched a complete game, pounding five strikeouts, four walks and conceding eight hits.