May 1, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
MABEN -- Another championship walk would suit the East Webster High School fast-pitch softball team just fine.
Last week, the three-time defending champion Lady Wolverines concluded their most recent South Half state title with a 7-0 victory against Bogue Chitto.
After the final out was recorded in senior Jessica Halterman''s no-hitter, East Webster coach Bill Brand talked to his team and then had seniors Halterman, Iyeshia Thomas, Jordan Sisk, Darlynda Wilson, and Caitlyn Williamson had join arms and walk from the center field fence to the backstop.
Queen''s "We Are the Champions" played in the background as the Lady Wolverines soaked in their final game at their home field.
At 6 p.m. today at Freedom Ridge State Park in Ridgeland, East Webster (21-8) will try to take the first step toward another state title when it faces Smithville in the best-of-three Class 1A championship series.
East Webster beat Smithville last season for the championship.
In the fall, Smithville won the Class 1A slow-pitch title.
The teams know each other well, but Brand hopes his seniors can help make the difference.
"It is a tribute to them," Brand said. "A lot of times you have a bunch of talent that doesn''t always make the most of the opportunity. But I think you can say that group has made the most of its opportunity."
Thomas, who is one of the team''s best hitters, started playing in 2006. She said there is no secret to the team''s success. She said hard work has helped the Lady Wolverines become a state power.
"We have gotten better and better, and it shows off when we get into the game," Thomas said. "I knew we were going to be one of the best teams in the state going into the season. (Our success) hasn''t been a surprise, but we can be better."
Dallas Ferguson was the coach who started the Lady Wolverines'' title run, and Brand has helped the program build momentum. Williamson said East Webster has improved defensively since Brand has taken over.
This season, the team''s hitting has blossomed. Brand said Thomas has proved to be a key run-producer in the middle of the lineup.
"She has that spirit that we like," Brand said. "It always seems like she is going to make a big catch. She covers a lot of ground in right field."
It also helps that the Lady Wolverines have Halterman, one of the state''s most dominating pitcher. The right-hander''s velocity makes her tough, but she also has solid control and can move the ball in and out and up and down to keep hitters off balance.
A victory today would give Halterman 100 for her high school career. But she and her teammates won''t settle for just one win.
If East Webster can win two more games, it already knows a perfect way to celebrate. Halterman said another state title would be a perfect way to cap her high school softball career.
"All of our girls make up the team. It is not just one person who is the key person. It is everybody," Halterman said. "We''re all close. We all depend on each other to do our best. If one of us is down we pick the other one up."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.