April 7, 2010 9:35:00 AM
After beating Columbus by the 10-run rule earlier in the season, Starkville High School softball coach Mimi Milling wasn''t expecting the close contest the Lady Jackets got in a rematch Tuesday.
Starkville evened its Class 6A, District 2 record by holding off Columbus 12-6, denying the Lady Falcons'' bid for their first win of the season.
The Lady Yellow Jackets scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning and pitcher Jadee Sexton retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to seal the win.
Sexton (5-12) pitched all seven innings, giving up six hits and striking out two on 110 pitches.
"They scared me at first and I was honestly worried that this was going to be a ball game," Milling said. "Last time they didn''t give us much of a ball game. This time they really did, but our girls fought hard.
"Our future is so bright, but nobody sees that because we''re so young. We''re starting an eighth grader on the mound, at the plate and at shortstop."
Columbus pitcher Timaria Hudgins took the loss, turning in her longest outing of the season, which included a season-high six strikeouts to go with three hits.
While Milling''s young Lady Jackets found success, Columbus'' building efforts were done in by miscues in the field and in the pitching circle.
Hudgins walked 12 and never got in a rhythm with catcher Whitney Kyles. Starkville scored five runs on wild pitches or passed balls and two runs on errors.
Knowing less errors could have given her team a chance to win, Columbus coach Alissa Wriley held firm that her team improved in the loss.
For starters, the seven innings were the most the Lady Falcons had played in a game this season.
Then playing Starkville closer in the rematch showed Wriley that patience and hard work are starting to pay off.
"There were mistakes here of there, but we''re working and getting better," Wriley said. "My pitcher struck out six batters. Our shortstop (Toni Petty) did well hitting the ball and got on base when we needed it.
"This is improvement and I''m proud of them."
Petty paced Columbus by going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Her offense came in the second inning with the Lady Falcons trailing 5-0.
Starkville built its lead with an RBI single by Tamara Bell and a lead-off triple and run by Shareda Brown, who led the Lady Jackets with a triple and a double.
Milling said Brown had been looking for this type of performance to regain her confidence.
Brown was relieved to have two extra-base hits.
"Just thinking about it being a district game, I really wanted to do the best I can and help my team," Brown said. "It''s been shaky (her confidence), but I have been trying to build it up every game."
Trailing 9-3 ging into the bottom of the fourth inning, Columbus got an RBI single from Shanqula Fulton before Kadarryl Ledbetter scored on a wild pitch and Hudgins helped her cause with an RBI to make it 9-6.
But Starkville took advantage of a pair of wild pitches in the top of the seventh as Ty Ringo and Tkeyia Davis crossed before a hit batteer scored the final run with the bases loaded.
Starkville returns to the field Thursday at South Panola, while Columbus will host Tupelo on Thursday.
Columbus was rained out against Noxubee County on Saturday and Wriley said a make-up date for the home game will be April 16.
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