March 19, 2014 9:56:32 AM
STARKVILLE -- Wendy Jolly has seen her team come so far in the past three years that Tuesday night against an area rival was the culmination of all the emotion.
After Jolly's Starkville High School fast-pitch softball team dominated West Point in 12-2 victory in five innings, you could hear the relief in her voice that her young team responded to a blowout loss.
"I really felt like tonight they played like the team they are and can be moving forward, so that's so encouraging," Jolly said. "They needed to settle down and re-focus after losing Monday night, and there's some pride in watching them not allow one game to pile on the next game."
Starkville (2-3) has earned both of its wins against West Point, but Jolly's fears of a letdown after a 19-7 Monday before were soon wiped away. The Yellow Jackets built an 8-0 lead after two innings thanks to quality hitting and several defensive miscues by West Point (1-5).
"Monday night was a setback, and there's no denying that, but my team understood this was a new day and a new game, and I give them all the credit in the world for understanding that," Jolly said. "They've come so far in such a short amount of time."
Each of the first four hitters in Starkville's batting order (Shanele Johnson, Jocitta Buchanan, Iyuna Clark, and Alexis Poe) had a hit and scored a run. Clark and Poe recorded two-RBI evenings and made pitcher Shea Hodnett pay for pitches around the plate. Eight of Starkville's runs were unearned.
"We're a young team with four seniors and a bunch of sophomores and freshmen behind them, so there's not a lot of varsity starting experience on this squad," West Point coach Brian Guy said. "Some of the issues are inexperience and early season nerves of not knowing how to handle things."
Starkville sophomore Callie Wells didn't allow a hit through four innings until West Point scored two runs in the fifth. Wells allowed just the two unearned runs on one hit in a 68-pitch effort. She pounded the strike zone without fear despite seeing her teammates give up 19 runs to Louisville 24 hours ago. She struck out four and threw 45 of her 68 pitches for strikes.
"The two pitchers we had (Monday) night struggled so much I wasn't sure what would happen," Jolly said. "I was a little bit worried about all of them in this game, but we had a long talk before this game and they just decided among themselves to pull together as one team. That makes a coach proud."
Jolly's team made up of mostly sophomores and juniors already has exceeded last year's total. She can sense a difference in her team's attitude from the past two seasons.
"I think this is a very strong group of young players and tonight showed that so much," Jolly said. "This being the third year, this group just keeps working so hard you know eventually it'll pay off for them."
Sophomore Tori Boatner had a hit and scored a run for West Point.
Starkville will play Nettleton on Friday in the Tupelo tournament, while West Point will travel this weekend to Houston for a tournament.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
2. Loss to Alabama helped MSU baseball re-focus COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Alabama softball team advances; Ole Miss eliminated COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Cohen brings home conference coach of year honors COLLEGE SPORTS