Rockets repeat as state champs
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 1:00 AM
Maybe it's a little early to start calling the Neshoba Central Lady Rockets the "South Panola" of high school softball.
But the Lady Rockets under Coach Trae Embry may be well on their way to such a reputation if they continue to maintain the results of the past couple of seasons.
Since Embry took over two years ago, the Lady Rockets have won two fast-pitch and two slow-pitch championships in the row. This past weekend, the Lady Rockets made short work of Wayne County in the Class 5A state championship series, winning game one 10-0 and game two 14-1. In two years, their record in fast-pitch is 63-8 and 61-6 in slow-pitch. Put fast-pitch and slow-pitch together and the record for two years stands at 124-14.
Embry said hard work has been the key. They either play games or practice every day during the season. And in the off season, most of the girls are part of traveling teams that seek out the best competition in the Southeast.
"We have a good group of girls who have worked their tails off to get better," Coach Embry said. "I keep telling people. This is not about me. These kids are putting the time into practice and travel ball. They want to get better.
"I said at the start that we were a more mature team than last year's. But look at what is coming next year. We are losing two great seniors in Katlyn Duke and Maggie Peebles, but we'll have 29 players coming back from this year. We are holding tryouts this week and we find some more players. So I expect us to be better than last season."
Here's a look at the Lady Rockets' records in the past two years
2013-14 school year:
Fast-pitch: 32-2, State Class 5A champs; defeated Wayne County 10-0, 14-1 for state title.
Slow-pitch: 34-1, State Class 5A champs; defeated Wayne County 10-8, 10-3, for state title.
2012-2013 school year
Fast-pitch: 31-6, State Class 5A champs, defeated East Central 8-0, 18-5;
Slow-pitch: 27-5, State Class 5A champs, defeated Wayne County 13-6, 2-1.
The Lady Rockets went 32-2 in fast-pitch, losing to St. Martin in the first game and Germantown. The slow-pitch team went 34-1, losing only to Choctaw Central.
Neshoba Central doesn't have to travel far to find good competition with such teams as Class 4A champion Newton County around. The competition is also tough with such teams as Philadelphia, Choctaw Central, Enterprise, Clarkdale and others. But this season, Embry scheduled the Lady Rockets to compete in tournaments on the Coast and in North Mississippi where they played a variety of competition.
"We like to play the best competition in different parts of the state," Embry said. "We are located in a rich softball area. But getting out and playing against teams we don't necessarily see very often makes us better."
One thing that Embry stresses is to keep the focus on the team and to only focus on the next game. There is a lot of depth on his bench.
"If someone gets hurt, we have someone ready to step up and play," Embry said. "But there is no 'I' in team. Everybody has a job and a role to fill on the team and that's where our focus is."
In years past, the season usually came to an end when Neshoba Central ran into New Hope in the North State finals, but no more.
"We don't talk about teams we might play down the road like New Hope or Lake Cormorant," Embry said. "We just worry about the next game, and making sure that we play our best in it.
Embry likes to keep his team together year around. While slow-pitch softball may be losing interest when compared to fast-pitch in some parts of the state, Embry encourages all of his players to be on both teams.
"Why wouldn't someone want to be on a team competing for a state championship?" Embry asked. "It's good to be out on the field playing. It gives some of our players a chance to learn another position."