May 3, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
RIDGELAND -- Champions make you pay for your mistakes.
Whether it is a pitch in the wrong location, an errant throw, or a missed groundball, the East Webster fast-pitch softball team has capitalized all season on miscues by its opponents.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association Class A state title series was no different.
East Webster took advantage of two critical errors in a five-run third inning Saturday and then rode the pitching of Jessica Halterman to an 8-2 victory against Smithville to clinch the best-of-three series at Freedom Ridge State Park.
The victory helped the Lady Wolverines (26-7) win their fourth state championship in a row, which matches the mark set by East Central High in Class 4A (2001-04).
"I think you''re always going to remember your first one and you always will remember your last one," East Webster coach Bill Brand said. "Hopefully this won''t be our last one, but it is huge right now. I am going to enjoy it."
Halterman notched her 100th high school win Friday night in an 8-5 victory. The Lady Wolverines made uncharacteristic mistakes in the series opener, which allowed the Lady Seminoles to get to Halterman more than many teams have this season.
Fortunately, the senior right-hander regrouped and changed the way she attacked Smithville. On Friday, Brand said the Lady Seminoles went with Halterman''s pitches and had several hits to right field.
In game two, Halterman used a fastball to bust hitters inside and then moved the ball and hit her spots. The result was a complete-game five-hitter that included two walks and six strikeouts.
"We tried to get a better mind-set of what we planned to do today," Halterman said. "We did a little bit of adjustment on the plate and throwing more moving pitches and getting my first strike and then throwing moving pitches because that''s what they were waiting for: the first strike."
East Webster, which beat Smithville last season for its third fast-pitch title, scored all of the runs it needed in the third. Jessica Flemings started the inning with a single. Chloe Roberson followed with a sacrifice bunt that the third baseman fielded and threw wide of first base. The throw went down the right-field line, allowing the Lady Wolverines to score their first run and Roberson to get to third.
Swayze Hollenhead''s flyball to center field proved to be just long enough to score Roberson, as the throw bounced in and enabled Roberson to slide in safely for a 2-1 lead.
Singles by senior Jordan Sisk and Halterman, a fielder''s choice by Iyeshia Thomas, an RBI single by Caitlyn Williamson, an infield error on a groundball by senior Darlynda Wilson, and a wild pitch made it 5-1 and gave East Webster all of the momentum.
"We knew we were going to have to play error-free," said Smithville coach Jeremy Duke, whose team committed three errors. "You can''t give anything to a team like East Webster. They are just an outstanding team. We knew we were going to limit the mistakes and we just didn''t do it. They capitalized on every little mistake we made."
Smithville (26-4) took a 1-0 lead in the second. Jordan Northington reached on an infield single, moved to second when Tiffani Nantz was hit by a pitch, to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Courtney Phillips'' sacrifice fly.
The Lady Seminoles didn''t get another hit until the fifth, but by then it was too late.
"We come out and hit a batter, walk a batter, and they get a hit. It is just all momentum," said Duke, whose team graduates five seniors. "As many years as they have been here it is hard to stop."
A three-run home run by Williamson in the fifth all but iced another state championship for the Lady Wolverines.
"It felt great, especially for your senior year and your last game," Williamson said. "I think it was a fastball right down the middle. When I hit it I pretty much knew it was going to go out."
Thomas, a senior right fielder, said Williamson''s home run pumped the team up and was a fitting final blow to the Lady Wolverines'' fourth act. She said she wasn''t concerned Saturday that the team would regroup because it focused on not repeating the mistakes it made Friday.
Turns out she was right.
"We worked hard together, we stayed in it, we didn''t get nervous or anything, and we ket our head in it," said Thomas said. "We didn''t let up one time."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.