March 8, 2009
TUPELO -- The New Hope High School and Hamilton High School fast-pitch softball teams are still works in progress.
Still, New Hope and Hamilton more than held their own at the Tupelo High School Tournament.
The two-day event featured six pools of teams, including defending Class 4A state champion Cleveland and Class 3A runner-up Nettleton.
New Hope, which won the Class 4A slow-pitch title in the fall, edged Eupora 7-6 and beat Oxford 12-2 on Saturday.
"We''re struggling in some areas, but we''re getting better," New Hope coach Tabitha Beard said. "We seem to be moving forward every game. Right now we''re heading in the right direction."
Beard said her players continue to adjust to speed of pitching they face every day. She said New Hope was off balance Friday night in a 1-0 victory against Sumiton Christian.
The Lady Trojans saw different speeds of pitching Saturday, and Beard said it took some time for the players to see the ball well.
New Hope (7-1) started quickly against Oxford. It capitalized on four walks and two errors in the first inning to score six runs and cruised from there. Anna Holley''s two-run single was the key blow.
Beard said it is just a matter of time before the Lady Trojans put the pieces together. Ultimately, she hopes the offense can be dominant against a pitcher who throws slow or someone who can bring the heat.
"This is the first weekend that we have played," Beard said. "It is just getting into the meat of our season to when we are playing better teams that have better pitchers."
Beard has tried to help her players adjust by having them hit off a baseball pitching machine. She said the team was struggling at the beginning of the season, which played a role in her decision to try to baseball pitching machine. The next day, she said the players responded and hit the ball well.
The key now is to hit the softballs, or "cantaloupes" as well as the baseballs.
Against Oxford, Deshuni Sanders had a single and an RBI, Kelli Petty had a single, triple, and an RBI, Haley Tutor had two hits and an RBI, D.J. Sanders had a double, and Holley and Anna McCrary had a single and two RBIs.
In the win against Eupora, a single by eighth-grader Lauren Holifield in the fifth inning scored Gabby Murry.
Deshuni Sanders and Anna Hodson (two RBIs) each had two hits for New Hope, which will play host to Noxubee County at 5 p.m. Monday in a doubleheader. The Lady Trojans will travel to Caledonia for a 6 p.m. varsity game Thursday.
Hamilton, the Class 2A runner-up in slow-pitch in the fall, lost to Tupelo 5-2 on Friday and to Nettleton 7-6 and to Cleveland 4-1 on Saturday.
Hamilton (4-5) trailed 6-0 against Nettleton before rallying. It scored two runs in the second, third, and fourth innings but the game''s 70-minute time limit expired. Miranda McCormick had an RBI single in the second and the third, while seventh-grader Taylar Hyland had an RBI single in the second.
Lexus Jordan had an RBI single in the third, and Caitlyn Atkins'' RBI groundout accounted for the scoring.
"We kind of got into a groove there late, but we still are not getting those key hits in key situations," Hamilton coach Jason Cobb said. "The hitting is coming around, but we''re still not getting them like we should."
Against Cleveland, Lyndsey Williams doubled and scored on Atkins'' groundout in the fourth to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Cleveland answered with two runs in its half of the fifth before the game was stopped.
Cobb said he wanted to face the higher classification teams to prepare his squad to make a run for the Class 2A state title. He said his team''s focus isn''t where it is, which is leading to costly mistakes.
For instance, Hamilton made an error with two outs in the second inning against Nettleton that led to six unearned runs.
"That''s where we''re struggling a little bit, we''re still having that one bad inning and not getting the timely hits," Cobb said. "The biggest key is staying focused for seven innings."
Cobb hopes the games will help his players see what kind of focus they need to compete at the state''s highest level. He said the team trailed 5-0 to Tupelo on Friday and rallied to make it close.
Kelle West (against Nettleton) and Williams both had fine outings in the circle Saturday for Hamilton.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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