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New Hope softball advances to third round of playoffs

 

Matthew Stevens

 

After going to the brink of elimination in the previous round, New Hope softball had no interest in going through that again.  

 

Playing its fifth game in four days, New Hope rallied in the seventh inning to defeat Germantown 4-3 to win a best-of-three series in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association's Class 5A North State playoffs. 

 

New Hope will now face defending state champion Neshoba Central in the third round, beginning Friday at home. 

 

The Lady Trojans rallied for one game down in the last round against Lewisburg and rallied in the final inning Saturday to eliminate Germantown.  

 

"I think the last thing we needed to have happen, after what we did against Lewisburg was have to play another do-or-die game," New Hope coach Tabitha Beard said. "This was a total team win at home and that's what make its so rewarding." 

 

In a week that started with severe tornados and storms ripping through the local area Monday and having many of the team members bunkered down and assessing the property damage. Senior star D.J. Sanders may have put it best after pitching and hitter her team to victory.  

 

"I think I'm just ready for an extremely long nap after this week," Sanders said after New Hope won its fourth straight playoff game in four days. "With all the storms and playing all these games, I think everybody had to show we had just a little bit left in the tank today." 

 

One Germantown fan, who made the trip from Madison, practically yelled the early summary of this contest by saying it was a "one player show". That one player was Sanders, a Louisiana-Lafayette signee. Sanders accounted for the first two runs nearly on her own after she manufactured the first runs on the board in the first and third by turning a single and walk into runs two batters later with her speed. 

 

"We think that if we play at our capabilities then a state championship is what we expect," Sanders said. "What's really fun is seeing some teammates of mine contribute because we all knew on this team that good things would eventually happen for everybody." 

 

However, after Sanders allowed a pesky Germantown team to find contact at the plate for a three-run fifth inning, Sanders needed the help of her teammates to avoid a Game 3 situation at Lady Trojan Field. 

 

New Hope got a leadoff single to right field by eighth-grader Alex Melton and after Sanders was intentionally walked, senior Kaitlin Bradley delivered. Bradley sent a single into right field for the game-tying hit. Sanders was brought in for by a sacrifice fly by sophomore designated player MacKenzie Harvey. It was a barrage of youthful stars Saturday as New Hope got a pair of hits from a pair of eight graders Melton and Kerrington Jones.  

 

"We talk all the time about our seniors like D.J. Sanders and they are important but today a pair of eighth graders decided we weren't losing today," Beard said. "For a coach, that's so gratifying to see young players with that type of confidence and then see them succeed." 

 

After struggling for six hits to string consecutive hits together, New Hope's final four batters would at least reach first base.  

 

Germantown got its first runs of the playoff series after a 10-pitch, leadoff walk by Bari Bedells was followed by two infield singles including a run-scoring single by Natilyn Hasty. Sydney Shell, who had a hit taken away from her by a leaping grab in the previous inning, blooped a single over the head of the third baseman for a 3-2 lead.  

 

The Lady Mavericks never got an extra-base hit in the entire two-game series but several long at-bats Saturday forced a tired Sanders to eventually give them pitches to get out of the infield. 

 

Germantown left-hander Avery Burns gave up just four hits before the seventh inning and controlled the everyone in the New Hope lineup but Sanders.  

 

Sanders got the victory in the circle by going the full seven innings and allowing just four hits and striking out six.  

 

"I think I got a talking to, which I deserved, after that fifth inning because I just lost focus and they were timing me up really well in that inning," Sanders said. "I didn't adjust and that's my job as a pitcher." 

 

Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.

 

 

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