November 14, 2018 10:21:33 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The good news keeps coming for the Columbus High School softball program.
Fresh off a season in which the slow-pitch team advanced to the third round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class III playoffs, senior Berniya Hardin played in the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Games on Oct. 27 in Decatur. Hardin was a member of the Class 4A/5A/6A North team.
"It was a great experience. I got to play with some of the best players in the state," Hardin said. "It felt like we had been playing together for a long time."
Also, sophomore catcher/pitcher/shortstop M'Kya Smith recently was selected to participate in the Game Day USA Junior All-American Games on Nov. 23-25 in Sarasota, Florida.
Columbus High's Keayra Hughes, Hardin, Haleigh Gore, C'Asia Grayer, and Aniya Saddler earned All-District honors.
All of the players had key roles in helping Columbus (19-12) beat Starkville and Grenada and advance to the third round of the postseason, where its season ended with a loss to Northwest Rankin in a best-of-three series.
Columbus advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the first time under coach Eric Thornton, who also leads the school's fast-pitch team.
"Berniya had another really good year," Thornton said. "Throughout the last three or four years, she has been one of our most consistent hitters. We tried to play her at second base and do some different things, but we kind of got to the point where we knew we had to move her to pitcher, which probably wasn't her first option, but she stepped up and pitched well for us. ... Her willingness to accept that role was a big part of that."
Hardin went 6-for-6 (all singles) with a walk in the two games. She said she also had a chance to play catcher for the first time, which she enjoyed. She said she volunteered to play catcher and played the position at least four innings. She said she will play on the school's fast-pitch team in the spring in hopes of realizing an opportunity to play softball in college.
Smith said she and her family will travel to Atlanta to spend Thanksgiving with her grandfather before leaving for Florida. She said she thought her father was joking with her when he told her she has been nominated to play in the event. Smith hopes she will learn a lot at the event so she can come back and show Thornton she has improved as a player.
"It is probably going to be a great experience for me," said Smith, who has never been to Florida. "I am going to learn a lot from it."
That's good news for Thornton, who is excited Smith will play with players from throughout the country and will receive a lot of individual instruction.
"I think playing against a high level of competition will be good for her," Thornton said. "I think it will spark a high level of interest for her and other girls just to see somebody from Columbus get accepted for something like that and getting some notoriety, which hasn't always been the case, and it shows some of the things we have been working toward the last couple of years."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.