Lady Rockets finish with perfect record to claim 8th straight title
Zachary Sanders was an assistant coach on the 2013 Neshoba Central team that won a fast-pitch title.
On Friday, the Lady Rockets made it eight straight titles, but it was the first title for Sanders as a head coach.
Neshoba swept Moss Point’s East Central Hornets 14-2 and 7-3 to capture the Class 5A State Championship for the 10th title in school history and finish the season with a perfect 32-0 record.
For Sanders, the win was even sweeter than the seven before that he was involved in as an assistant.
“This is my eighth one that I have been involved in and it brings me back to the first one,” Sanders said, just moments after lifting the championship trophy for the Neshoba Central fans in attendance. “This one brings me back to that one. That one was awesome. They were really excited about it and jumping around. That’s the most excitement we have had since the first one.”
As with any championship it wasn’t easy but the hard-hitting Neshoba offense kept banging away at the East Central defense with 20 hits in the two-game series.
“We always find a way,” Sanders said. “They have worked hard and done all of the things they need to do. There is a lot of pressure. All of the girls know the pressure is there but you never see it. We do what we have to do. I think we swung at some good pitches and didn’t swing at any bad pitches. We just did what we needed to do.”
This year’s championship looked somewhat different than the last few with former standout Aspen Wesley on the mound. But Neshoba’s Elleigh Willis was just as effective as she picked up both wins in the series.
“She is a good one,” Sanders said. “We have had years of swing-and-miss pitchers but this one, she makes it hard to get base hits and she has a good defense behind her. When you have a good defense backing you up, you feel good about them making plays behind you.”
Lady Rockets 14
East Central 2
The Lady Rockets used a seven-run fifth inning to pull away and take a five-inning, run-rule win over the Lady Hornets and secure the Class 5A state championship.
Neshoba scored two runs in the top of the first and East Central responded with a single run in the bottom of the second to cut the lead to 2-1.
But Neshoba answered back in the top of the third with two more runs. Tenly Grisham led off the inning with a bunt single. C. Morris then reached on an error that scored Grisham. Elleigh Willis then doubled and scored Grisham to give Neshoba a 4-1 lead.
East Central scored a single run in the bottom of the third to cut the lead to 4-2 but Neshoba again answered as they scored three runs in the top of the fourth. Hamaya Fielder reached on and error and Grisham followed with a single. Neshoba then put together three straight singles as Charmayne Morris, Willis and Mauhree Jones all singled and Neshoba took a commanding 7-2 lead.
Neshoba then finished up with seven runs in the top of the fifth with the last blow being a big two-run double by Jeyda Ben to finish off the Lady Hornets.
Neshoba had 11 hits in the contest and took advantage of seven errors and four walks. Grisham was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs while Willis was 2-for-3 with a double. Kylee Thompson was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Ben doubled and also had two RBIs while Sa’Nya Jackson, Morris and Mauhree Jones each scored two runs apiece.
Willis again pitched a complete game, going all five innings. She gave up two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out two.
Lady Rockets 7
East Central 3
The Lady Rockets never trailed and took a four-run win over the Lady Hornets on Thursday in Game 1 of the series.
Neshoba scored three runs in the second inning. AnnaLeigh Jones led off the inning when she reached on an error. Shante Beaulieu then singled to score courtesy runners Erica Lyons. After two outs, Charmayne Morris singled to score Beaulieu. Elleigh Willis then singled to right to score Morris and Neshoba led 3-0.
East Central answered back with two runs in the top of the third to cut the score to 3-2. But that was as close as the Lady Hornets got.
Neshoba added two more in the fifth as Mauhree Jones singled and scored on a single by Kylee Thompson. After a fielder’s choice and passed ball moved Thompson to third, she scored on a sacrifice fly by Jones to give Neshoba a 5-2 lead.
East Central added its last run in the top of the sixth to cut the lead to 5-3. But the Lady Rockets added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth as Willis singled to score Hama’ya Fielder. Tenly Grisham then scored on a sacrifice fly to right field for the final margin.
Neshoba had nine hits in the contest as Willis was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Grisham was 2-for-4 While Morris, Mauhree Jones, Kylee Thompson and Beaulieu each singled, scored and drove in a run. Erica Lyons also had two stolen bases for Neshoba.
Willis pitched all seven innings for Neshoba and gave up three unearned runs on six hits while striking out two.