September 29, 2009 10:50:00 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Slower was better for Lyndsey Haynes.
The Starkville Academy senior pitcher''s use of the changeup nearly helped make Monday an all-day affair for the Lady Volunteers.
As it turned out, Haynes almost pitched Starkville Academy out of the losers'' bracket and into a berth in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools AAA state tournament.
But the unlikely combination of a run scoring on a rundown and another on an obstruction call helped Magnolia Heights eliminate Starkville Academy 2-0 Monday night at the Starkville Sportsplex.
"We had a bunch of chances," Starkville Academy coach Randy Haynes said. "We had runners on there just about every inning. In the first couple of innings we had line drives. They just kept doing what they needed to do to get us out."
Magnolia Heights and Madison Ridgeland Academy earned the top two spots from the North Half and will compete in the overall state tournament.
Starkville Academy, which played five consecutive games, saw its season end at 23-8.
Despite the loss, Haynes and classmate Kylie Lockhart were disappointed but pleased with their team''s ability to fight back from a 2-1 loss to The Washington School in its first game at 10 a.m.
"We were really close (to keeping the evening going)," said Haynes, who allowed only four hits and struck out three in the final game of her high school career. "We were hitting really good the whole game, but they made the plays. We just didn''t have the luck of getting a hit in the gap."
With Starkville Academy trailing 1-0, Haynes doubled with one out in the top of the sixth. She went to third when Magnolia Heights threw the ball past the pitcher. But Jordan Alliston retired Mary Austin Barber on a groundball to third base. She then intentionally walked Julianne Jackson and got senior Renee Tatum to ground into a fielder''s choice to end the threat.
The Lady Volunteers also had a runner at third in the fifth inning, only to have catcher Summer Steakley pick her off base to end the inning.
"I still think we did and feel good about it because we had a good record," Lockhart said. "Being in the losers'' bracket (and finishing how we did) showed a lot, too."
Magnolia Heights scored the only run it needed in the bottom of the first. Leila Swape singled and then moved to third on Abi Gibson''s sacrifice bunt. Sydney Wilson followed with a groundball back to Haynes. The right-hander froze Swape coming off third and then ran at her. Swape made it back to the base, but Haynes opted to throw to second to try to retire Wilson.
The Lady Volunteers caught Wilson in a rundown, but Swape broke from third and scored on the back end of the play.
The Lady Chiefs added an insurance run in the sixth after Swape doubled and moved to third on an infield groundout. She rounded third on the second out and was awarded home after she collided with the third baseman.
"There are so many little things that happen in a game," Haynes said. "Those things happen. You get folks out of position and they are watching what is going on, and it could have been any number of things in softball that got us. The main thing is we couldn''t get that last hit. We would string together two or three or they would make an error, but we couldn''t quite push them across."
Starkville Academy reached the third-place game by beating The Washington School 2-0.
Haynes walked one, hit two, struck out five and allowed just five hits to get the victory. She said last week that she planned to go with her changeup more at the North Half State tournament, and she used it effectively to keep hitters off balance.
"She threw them when she needed to and she made us look off balance," Washington School coach Lauren LaSuzzo said. "We couldn''t get our bats going. Our bats really weren''t that great when we played them this morning. We just scratched some runs across. Today, we had runners on second and third a couple of times or on second and couldn''t get the bunt down or get a timely basehit."
Starkville Academy scored all of its runs in the fourth. Lockhart reached first when she beat out a bloop slap. Haynes followed with an RBI double. She moved to third on a throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly by Barber.
Jackson backed Haynes with solid defense in right field by throwing out three runners at first base.
"(Lyndsey) wanted to beat Washington because they beat us early this morning," coach Haynes said. "That probably was a game we should not have lost. We had that thing in hand and let some stuff get away from us."
The victory put Starkville Academy in position to keep its season alive, but the season after more than nine hours of work and a 3-2 showing.
Starkville Academy also defeated Lee Academy 7-4.
"I was proud of how we put pressure on them in just about every inning," Haynes said. "I was real proud of the way the defense kept playing."
Lyndsey Haynes, who plans to study nursing at Mississippi University for Women, believes the Lady Volunteers can build on their showing next season.
"That is the best record we have had in years," Haynes said. "Coming in third in this tournament is the best the team has done since my sister was a senior. (Even though) they are a young team I think they can keep it going because we are only losing three seniors."
Heritage Academy defeated Pillow Academy in its first game before falling to Magnolia Heights 2-1 in its second game.
The loss dropped the Lady Patriots into the losers'' bracket against Starkville Academy.
Last Wednesday, Lyndsey Haynes pitched a complete-game four-hitter to lead Starkville Academy to a 2-0 victory against Heritage Academy. The victory helped the Lady Volunteers earn the fifth seed in the North Half State tournament.
On Monday, the Lady Patriots touched Haynes for two runs, but a triple by Bailey Wofford in the bottom of the sixth inning scored Lauren Ware with the winning run in a 3-2 victory.
Heritage Academy coach Ginny Lowery said her team played three of its best games of the season.
"We had one error in three games," Lowery said. "They did a really good job. I was proud of them the whole day."
The Lady Patriots will lose pitcher Kristyn Atkins, third baseman Jessee Mims, shortstop Morgan Lamb, first baseman Madison Ford, and left fielder Casey Taylor to graduation.
"We''re really going to miss our seniors," Lowery said. "To beat Pillow Academy to start the day was a great way to start the day. Our defense was just unreal today. They came out and were excited and full of energy. I am glad we if we had to finish up today that we finished like we did. We stood our ground."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.