October 15, 2009 8:11:00 AM
The New Hope High School slow-pitch softball team has picked the right time of the season to break out the big bats.
Now the Lady Trojans have to find a way to keep it going for two more series.
Freshman Lauren Holifield hit three of New Hope''s season-high seven home runs Wednesday to lead it to 19-1 and 16-4 victories against Ridgeland in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A best-of-three playoff series.
With the victories, New Hope (18-7) will play host to Neshoba Central at 5 p.m. today in the North Half State title series.
The winner of that series will advance to the state championship scheduled for Saturday at the V.A. Fields in Jackson.
Hamilton also will be in action. The Lady Lions will play host to Baldwyn at 5 p.m. today in their best-of-three Class 2A series.
That series was postponed from Tuesday.
New Hope has won 11 slow-pitch state titles, the past two in Class 4A in 2007 and ''08.
"It was unbelievable," New Hope High coach Tabitha Beard said of her team''s hitting. "We hit the ball better than we ever have this season. I am very proud of them."
New Hope and Ridgeland finally played their best-of-three series Wednesday morning after rain forced the series to be postponed three times.
The Lady Trojans left Lowndes County Wednesday and stayed overnight in the Ridgeland area to be ready for the 10 a.m. start.
Beard didn''t know if her team''s dinner at a national family restaurant or the continental breakfast the team had at its hotel had anything to do with its hitting performance, but she hopes the Lady Trojans are able to duplicate it today.
"We waited and waited and waited," Beard said. "I think they were tired of waiting because they had all of this built up energy. I told them to save some for (today). The were really focused and on top of if. They were unbelievable."
Haley Tutor and Morgan Hardin each hit two home runs for New Hope, which has been a team made up mostly of singles hitters this season.
Things were different Wednesday as the Lady Trojans had multiple players with hits.
In game one, Tutor also had a double, single, and five RBIs, Holifield, Anna Holley, and Kasey Stanfield had singles, D.J. Sanders had two singles and a double, Brandi Brantley, Taylor Brown, Anna McCrary, and Kayla Scarborough each had two singles, Ashley Boyle had a double and a single, Hardin had a single, Kaitlin Bradley had a double, and Jessica Moore also reached base.
In game two, Tutor had a double and a single, Holifield had a single to go with her home run, Sanders, Brantley, Brown, and Moore had two singles, Hardin had a home run, Boyle and Holley had singles, McCrary had two singles and a double, and Scarborough had a double.
Beard didn''t know Wednesday night if the Lady Trojans would have any pop left in their bats for today''s series, but she likes her team''s mind-set.
"I think they know this is time to step up," Beard said. "It is do or die, and they have been answering the call really well."
Neshoba Central had to go to three games to beat Pearl in its best-of-three series to advance. It lost the first game 4-2 before rallying to win 17-10 and 1-0.
The winner of the North Half series will play Brookhaven, which needed three games to beat Vancleave to capture the South Half State title. It won game one 4-2, lost game two 5-4, and won game three 10-0.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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