May 2, 2014 10:22:27 AM
The severe storms that ripped through the region Monday affected people throughout the state of Mississippi. The community of New Hope was no exception.
Although the center of the community avoided a direct hit, several areas in eastern Lowndes County suffered moderate damage from the storm. Some of those impacted included New Hope High School softball players and their families.
"Some of our girls had trees go through into their homes," New Hope High coach Tabitha Beard. "They had to spend the night Monday in shelters and also on Tuesday while spending the day helping others clean up."
On Wednesday, Lewisburg beat New Hope 3-1 to push the Lady Trojans to the brink of elimination. The loss meant New Hope would have to win two games Thursday at home to keep its season alive. The softball team showed the strength and resiliency the community delivered after Monday's storms by beating Lewisburg 9-5 and 3-2 to advance to face Germantown at 5:30 p.m. today. New Hope will play host to Germantown in Game 2 at noon Saturday.
In Thursday's first game, the Lady Trojans (17-6-1) wasted no time getting on the board early, as Alex Melton drove in D.J. Sanders with a single off starting pitcher Sierra Anderson. After a Lewisburg error allowed two more runs to score, Brooke Braddock drove in another run. Another run scores on a ground ball to first base.
"The thing we stressed tonight was going in and being aggressive at the plate," Beard said. "We did not want to hit (Anderson's) pitch. She did a really good job of trying to get that first strike in and then throwing a lot of junk. We allowed her to do that because we took the first pitch. What we changed tonight is we jumped on that first strike. That worked in our favor."
After the Lady Trojans extended their lead to 6-0 on a Megan James RBI in the bottom of the third, Lewisburg scored five runs in the fourth to make it 6-5.
However, New Hope regained control with a three-run fifth. Taylor Blevins reached on an error and scored. Kaitlin Bradley finished the scoring by sending R.J. James and Sanders home.
New Hope's senior ace D.J. Sanders allowed seven hits and struck out seven to get the victory. She worked her way out of a jam in the fourth to preserve the lead. After the games, she credited her defense.
"We've been trying to work really hard on our defense," Sanders said. "One of the things we've really worked on is not letting errors take over the innings to come, so if we do make those errors we can shake it off, come back, and make better plays."
Game 3 started just like the second game of the series. In the bottom of the first, Sanders tripled to center field and scored on Bradley's infield grounder. New Hope score one run in each of the next two innings, including an inside-the-park home run by Bradley in the third, to take a 3-0 lead.
"I saw that it was a good hit," Bradley said. "I figured it was at least a double, but I didn't think it would end up with me rounding all four bases. It came at a time when we needed it, and helped us to build our lead."
The Lady Patriots chipped away at the lead, as Paige Dill's infield grounder scored Claire Johnson from third to cut the lead to 3-1. Anna Kate Craig scored on a sacrifice bunt in the sixth to trim the deficit to one with one out. But Sanders and the Lady Trojans squeezed their way out of the jam, as a swinging strikeout and an infield grounder ended the inning.
Sanders recorded a no-hitter for the Lady Trojans, striking out nine and walking five, as New Hope won the series on Senior Night, something the team had to wait to celebrate due to late-season cancellations and rainouts. For the seniors, the victories were even more special.
"Last night after the loss, we were kind of down," New Hope senior outfielder R.J. James said. "(But) to come out here tonight in front of our home crowd and advance to the next round of the playoffs really felt good."
Beard doesn't feel staying energized and healthy will be a big problem for her team.
"After losing last night, we could have easily laid down," said Beard. "We lost and we played horrible, but we didn't quit. We kept fighting. I think that is what is going to define us in the end. That is what is going to help us get through this. At the end of this, I will be running on pure adrenaline, so I expect they will be, too. I think they will fight to the bitter end."