April 2, 2009
Haley Tutor isn''t ready to say goodbye to her senior teammates.
That''s why she is going to do everything in her power to see that the New Hope High School fast-pitch softball team''s season ends, fittingly, with a state title.
Tutor had a home run, two singles, and six RBIs Wednesday to lead New Hope to a 12-2 victory against West Point in a Class 4A-District 4 game at Lady Trojan Field.
The game was called in the bottom of the fifth due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Tutor''s performance was the highlight on an evening in which senior outfielders Victoria Culpepper and Deshuni Sanders and third baseman Kristen Harvey were honored after the game.
Each of the players has been part of a softball tradition at the school that has seen New Hope win 11 state titles in slow-pitch and a national title in 2005 (the 18-and-under crown in the Amateur Softball Association).
The 2008 fast-pitch team won a district championship, and Tutor and the seniors want to do even more this season.
Wednesday''s victory, albeit after a slow start, might be the first step.
"The seniors really try to pick us up," said Tutor, who plays right field. "We''re always talking in the outfield, and I never get down because of them."
Tutor, a sophomore, said the seniors have helped set the example, verbally and on the field for the rest of the Lady Trojans. She said she has grown so much and has learned so much from them that one day she hopes she will be able to step in and assume the leadership role they play.
"The outfield will be terribly missed," Tutor said. "Deshuni covers so much ground and so does Victoria will all of her dives. Kristen does a great job at third base. It is going to be hard to replace them. I am going to have to step up my game and speak up more and lead the younger ones and try to help them out."
Coach Tabitha Beard is happy she won''t have to find replacements for the seniors for at least a few more days. She said the team''s slow start (it led 5-2 in the third inning coming off a 7-6 victory against Neshoba Central on Monday) might have been a result of the Senior Night festivities that were to follow the game.
"I can''t say enough about my team in general, with the exception of one, I think, when it comes to academics," Beard said. "They are all at the top of their class. They are leaders in the classroom, which is just a vital part of playing extracurricular activities."
New Hope used five consecutive hits by Anna Hodson, Lauren Holifield, Sanders, Kelli Petty, and Tutor and a triple by Harvey to score five runs in the fourth.
Petty and Tutor had singles in a two-run fifth that invoked the mercy rule.
After the game, Beard announced that Sanders will sign a letter of intent at 10 a.m. Friday to play softball at East Mississippi Community College.
Harvey also hopes to play softball in college and is considering Itawamba C.C., Hinds C.C., and Northeast Mississippi C.C.
Culpepper plans to attend Birmingham Southern on an academic scholarship.
All three will play in the Mississippi Association of Coaches slow-pitch All-Star game at the end of the season in Jackson.
Holifield allowed just three hits to get the victory. She struck out six and walked one.
Kammeka Reed had a double and Kelsei Ewings and Hollywood Richardson singled for West Point.
New Hope will play host to an opponent to be determined Saturday in the first round of the state playoffs. The Lady Trojans will play the first two games of a best-of-three series starting at 1 or 2 p.m.
n Caledonia 3, Kosciusko 3: At Caledonia, Ashley Langford''s two-run double in the bottom of the third inning gave the Lady Confederates (12-7) the cushion they needed to earn their Class 4A-District 4 victory.
West Lauderdale split a doubleheader with Neshoba Central on Wednesday, which means Caledonia will travel to West Lauderdale at 5 p.m. today. The winner of that game will advance to the state playoffs.
Maggie Wester helped Caledonia celebrate its Senior Night in style. The senior right-hander pitched a complete-game two-hitter. She struck out 11 and walked none. She also had three singles.
Seniors Justine Jenkins and Caitlin Gilbreath also were honored.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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