April 26, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
MABEN -- Jessica Halterman didn''t need to make any adjustments Saturday.
One game after hurling a complete-game, four-hitter, the East Webster senior was even more dominating -- and nearly perfect.
Halterman pitched a no-hitter, struck out 14, and allowed only four baserunners to lead East Webster to a 7-0 victory against Bogue Chitto in game two of its Class A South State best-of-three state title series.
"My first game in the series wasn''t my best game, but I came out and my mind-set was that I was going to do better today," Halterman said. "I feel like today was somewhat better."
When Halterman discovered she struck out 14, she quickly changed her tone.
"I did good then. I didn''t know how many I had," Halterman said.
East Webster (21-8) will go for its fourth consecutive Class 1A state title starting Friday when it plays North State champion Smithville in a best-of-three series at Freedom Ridge State Park in Ridgeland.
East Webster beat Smithville last season for the championship.
Halterman will be just one of several carryovers from the 2008 championship. In fact, the right-hander needs one more victory this season to hit 100 for her career.
But there''s no chance she plans to stop there.
Bogue Chitto coach Scott Leggett said velocity is only one aspect of Halterman''s success.
"She has a tough ''D'' behind her, too," said Leggett, whose team ended its season at 26-7. "(Third baseman Swayze) Hollenhead is one of the best defensive players we have faced. If Jessie is not getting it done on the mound for them, their defense is going to step up in every position."
Hollenhead was forced to make only three plays, none of them spectacular. Right fielder Iyeshia Thomas'' running catch on Josie Porter''s short popup in the top of the second was the best defensive play on a day when Halterman was overpowering.
"She had a great game," East Webster coach Bill Brand said. "She just came out and dominated."
Brand said earlier this week that he and Halterman adjusted after losing game one to Stringer in the previous round. He said Halterman noticed the Stringer batters were dead-pull hitters, so they opted to pound the outside corner. The strategy worked as the Lady Wolverines swept the next two games at Stringer to advance to face Bogue Chitto.
And while Leggett said his team had good swings at Halterman on Thursday, she used her fastball Saturday to command the strike zone.
"She might not have had the control she normally has, but that may have been a good thing," Brand said.
Halterman''s only hiccup came in the top of the seventh, when she sandwiched two walks around an error. But she struck out Amanda Owen with the bases loaded to end the game.
East Webster opened the scoring in the bottom of the first as Hollenhead was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a walk by Jordan Sisk, to third on an infield out, and scored on Thomas'' groundball to second base.
The Lady Wolverines tacked on two more runs in the third, as Sisk doubled and Halterman singled. They scored on an error (one of two in the inning) and a sacrifice fly by Caitlyn Williamson, respectively.
Thomas tripled home Hollenhead and Halterman in the sixth and scored on a single by Darlynda Wilson in the sixth to close the scoring.
Halterman said she wasn''t sure how many no-hitters, if any, she has thrown this season. She admitted, though, she isn''t one to keep track of those statistics.
Instead, she prefers to credit her defense because she has confidence that her teammates will pick her up when opponents do make contact.
Brand knows Halterman will have to have that trust and not try to strike everyone out against Smithville if East Webster wants to keep its state title run alive.
"I think in the seventh she was ready to strike some hitters out," Brand said. "Every once in a while Jessica likes to strike hitters out. She has to realize she has that great defense behind her and she has to let them make plays. If she lets them make plays she will be great."
It''s hard to imagine Halterman could be much better than she was Saturday.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.