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New Hope turns attention to state tourney

 

Adam Minichino

 

Now that the New Hope High School fast-pitch softball team has taken care of its Senior Night festivities, it can focus on adding another state title to the program''s list of accomplishments. 

 

New Hope (17-2) still has a game at 5 p.m. today against Neshoba Central, weather permitting, before it can focus on the state tournament. 

 

As of Friday morning, the Lady Trojans still didn''t know their opponent. New Hope coach Tabitha Beard said New Hope will play Lafayette County or Center Hill at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first two games of a best-of-three series. 

 

On Wednesday, senior outfielders Deshuni Sanders and Victoria Culpepper and third baseman Kristen Harvey were honored after a 12-2 victory against West Point. 

 

In the game, Sanders, who was scheduled to sign a letter of intent this morning to play softball at East Mississippi Community College, nearly broke a plank on the outfield wall with a leadoff double in the first inning against West Point. 

 

Sanders'' production at the plate is just one way she and her classmates lead the team. 

 

"Deshuni is such, such a verbal leader," Beard said. "Victoria and Kristen aren''t so much verbal leaders, they are just going to show you the way and the direction to go. The girls look up to them." 

 

Beard said the seniors have been a part of the program''s softball tradition that includes 11 slow-pitch state titles and a Amateur Softball Association Under-18 national title in 2005. 

 

The Lady Trojans won a district championship last season in fast-pitch and won the Class 4A state title in slow-pitch in 2008. 

 

The addition of pitcher Lauren Holifield and designated hitter D.J. Sanders has changed the dynamic of the program. Both players have grown up playing fast-pitch, which is different than the three seniors. 

 

Still, the Lady Trojans have blended their talents and their backgrounds to have another successful season. 

 

Harvey said the Lady Trojans hope to regroup after a sluggish start against West Point. The third baseman had a triple in a five-run fourth inning to help set the Lady Trojans on the path to earning the mercy-rule victory. 

 

She enjoyed the Senior Night festivities and hearing the list of individual and team accomplishments she and her classmates have added to their resumes the past six years. 

 

"It''s a team effort, so it''s definitely not just the seniors," Harvey said. "I think it does help out a lot to have seniors to have that leadership and to have somebody to look up to. We each have a special role on the team. Each person when they leave they leave a hole somewhere, but it gets filled by somebody on the team." 

 

Harvey hopes it takes a few more weeks before Beard will have to worry about filling the graduation losses.  

 

As for her contributions, Harvey admits she isn''t the most vocal player, but she said she has tried to remain a positive influence who helps her teammates stay in the game. 

 

She feels Deshuni Sanders and Culpepper also stand out. 

 

"Deshuni gets us started on hitting a lot. She makes some awesome plays," Harvey said. "Victoria will have a nice hit or two to get us started, and she makes some good defensive plays, too. Victoria isn''t really loud, but she makes a statement sometimes and everybody knows what is going on when she is around." 

 

Harvey also said the Lady Trojans know what is up when Deshuni Sanders is around because she is one of the team''s most vocal players. 

 

Sanders doesn''t mind holding that honor. In fact, she enjoys being the spark at the top of the lineup who gets New Hope going. She wants to remain in that role for as long as she can. 

 

"It is getting close to the end of the season, and I know I don''t have that much longer with these girls," Sanders said. "I am just excited that they gave what they gave and care about as much as they do to give us a Senior Night." 

 

Now Beard hopes the team can refocus for another title march. She will look to her seniors to set the pace. 

 

"Sometimes I look back and think, ''How in the world did we win that game?'' " Beard said. "We just know how to win, and we know how to win because of people like Deshuni, Victoria, and Kristen who have been a part of it and know not to give up and they keep the rest of the girls up." 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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