May 1, 2009
HAMILTON -- This weekend is the Hamilton High School fast-pitch softball team''s chance to shine.
The Lady Lions will try to do it with fire and desire.
"Fire and desire" was the slogan on a sign taped to the wall in Hamilton''s dugout Saturday when it faced Hatley in game two of its Class 2A North Half title series.
Hamilton (15-10) won that game 7-6 to earn the opportunity to play Loyd Star at 6 p.m. today in the first game of the Mississippi High School Activities Association best-of-three Class 2A state championship at Freedom Ridge State Park in Ridgeland.
The Lady Lions have won five games in a row after losing game two to Baldwyn in their second-round playoff series.
"I think we have just relied on our experience from last year," catcher Katie Beth Dahlem said. "The year before we had lost seven seniors and we were real young. Last year, we were expected to go a few rounds and be done and we made it all of the way to North Half and ended up losing. We took that fire of losing and how bad it hurt and losing in the state championship in slow-pitch to push us and to make us work harder."
Dahlem said the frustration of losing in three games to Eupora last year in the fast-pitch season and falling to Clarkdale in two games in the slow-pitch campaign "fueled" the Lady Lions fire to get back to the title series.
Hamilton coach Jason Cobb has used the "fire and desire" slogan to motivate his players all season. A schedule packed with higher classification teams has caused the Lady Lions to suffer their share of ups and downs, but Cobb likes how his team has come together in the past few weeks.
"Through the playoffs and the latter part of the regular season when the door opens they have taken advantage of it," Cobb said. "That is what makes this group special. We have been down, and you''re not going to have your best game every time you step on the field. But being able to fight through that is the mark of a championship team, and that''s what we''re shooting for."
Shortstop Kelle West said Saturday that a positive mind-set helped Hamilton regroup after it lost an early lead and had to rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. She said that attitude has helped the Lady Lions overcome the frustration of peaks and valleys.
"We worked hard every day in practice," West said. "We didn''t change anything. We were more focused at the plate."
Cobb hopes the Lady Lions play with that focus in every aspect Friday and Saturday. He doesn''t feel it will be a problem because he believes the players knew they had to affect a change and then implemented it.
"We struggled in the early part and in the middle of the season with focus and with everything," Cobb said. "Our saying on the wall is fire and desire, and that is what we have gained. I feel like in the latter part of the season that the fire and desire was there and they decided they were ready to be in the state championship."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.