Trae Embry
Trae Embry
On top of winning their sixth straight state Class 5A fast-pitch softball championship and finishing undefeated, the Neshoba Central Lady Rockets have one more honor to add to their list of accomplishments.

USA Today has them ranked No. 1 in the nation in its national high school softball poll. The Lady Rockets can certainly make a case for that ranking.

Neshoba Central finished the season with a 34-0 record. Among those victories, they defeated six teams that played for state championships last week. They also beat 13 teams that made it to the South State or North State finals in their respective classifications.

“This was no cupcake walk,” Coach Trae Embry said. “We played the best competition we could find. I never dreamed we would be No. 1 in the nation.

“Every time we go out, we know we will get everybody’s ‘A’ game. We play with a target on our backs. One of the turning points of this season came when we played Madison Central,” Embry said.

The Lady Rockets had hosted Madison Central the week before and took a 14-0 win. But the next week, it was a different story. The Lady Rockets scored one in the first and two in the fourth to take a 3-0 lead. But Madison Central came up with three runs in the sixth inning and that undefeated season was on the line. The Lady Rockets scored two runs in the seventh and held on to take the 5-3 win. But everyone knew if they hadn’t scored and Madison had managed to get a run in, that undefeated season would have been over.

“We found ourselves in a dog fight but we found a way to win,” Embry said. “It was a turning point to our season. We can’t take anything for granted. Everyone got refocused after that game.”

Embry, who has been nominated for the National Softball Coach of the Year, said this is certainly not a one-man show.

“I have two of the best assistant coaches (in Zach Sanders and Taylor Petty),” Embry said. “We couldn’t make it without them. This program is not about me or the coaches or the players. It’s about all of us.

“We get great support from our administration. We play in one of the nicest facilities around. We get great support from our parents and families. If we need help getting something, they help get it for us. We have good support that follows us. We enjoyed going and playing at Mississippi State this past week. It was a first for us and we really enjoyed it. In all, this was a total program win.”