MACON — One loss can change a season.
It can also test the resolve of a team that believes it is destined to win a state championship.
The Central Academy slow-pitch softball team faced that challenge after it saw a double-digit lead vanish against Russell Christian en route to a 27-24 loss in the regular season.
The players called the result “amazing.”
Coaches Sammy Lindsey and Pres Dawkins called the defeat “mind boggling” and wondered if it would rattle their players and ruin the title dreams in an otherwise promising start to the season.
There was no need to be concerned.
Instead of allowing the loss to derail their confidence, the Lady Vikings turned the disappointment into motivation and used it to fuel their run to a state championship.
On Saturday, Central Academy defeated Kemper Academy 15-4 in five innings in the championship game of the Mississippi Private School Association Class A tournament.
The victory helped Central Academy (19-5) secure the school”s seventh state title in softball, and the first since 2000-01.
The win also was sweet because it avenged a loss to Kemper Academy in the 2007 state final.
“When we started the season we expected to win it,” Lindsey said. “We had a couple of downs along the way, but we knew we had the team to do it, and we felt like we were going to do it. We felt good going into Saturday.”
Central Academy had 18 hits and scored in every inning to beat Kemper Academy for the title. It won three games Saturday to go undefeated in the tournament.
The victories were a turnaround from the disappointment of losing a game to Russell Christian the team should have won.
Lindsey said the Lady Vikings were “amazed” they lost the way that way. He said the loss refocused the team and increased its desire to win a state title.
Senior left fielder Hannah Martin said the team came together after the Russell Christian game.
“We all had errors here and there, but we just realized that if we were going to come this far we had to get our act together and work as a team,” Martin said. “It was great to win the state title. We knew our team was really young last year and that we had matured this year and that we were capable of winning it this year.”
Shortstop Corey Dawkins said she had never seen a game like the Russell Christian game. She said everyone on the team felt they had the victory and “kind of gave up.” She has learned a valuable lesson from the loss because she said she never wants to experience that feeling again.
“As we look back on it we saw we didn”t play our hardest,” Dawkins said. “We knew we had to play our hardest in the state tournament. We all agreed that”s what we had to do, and that”s what we did.”
Dawkins said the team”s hitting was the driving force to help it win a slow-pitch state title. She hopes the momentum the program gained winning the championship will help it in a few months when the fast-pitch team returns to the field.
Pres Dawkins said eight of the players on the team played on the school”s fast-pitch team in the fall. He said the girls worked hard to adjust in the batter”s box to the different pitching speed.
“The talent has been there for the last three years,” Pres Hawkins said. “They were comfortable out there Saturday. They weren”t as nervous and came out as leaders and said we can do this.”
Corey Dawkins hit .488 for the year and .667 for the tournament. Second baseman Kendall Taylor (.463, .445), third baseman Lillian Lindsey (.432, .500) left-center fielder Alex Dawkins (.481, .818), Martin (.532, .556), right fielder Kellie Hailey (.377, .429), first baseman Julianna Persons (.365, .500), catcher Megan Banks (.314, .375), pitcher Marion Colvin (.515, .500), right-center fielder Blake Rigdon (.303, .444), and extra hitter Hollie Lane (.400) had strong seasons at the plate to spark the offense.
Colvin (17-4) and Lindsey (2-1) paced the Lady Vikings in the circle.
Martin and Brittney Brown are the team”s only seniors.
Alex Dawkins, Corey Dawkins and Martin and Lindsey were named to the MPSA all-tournament team.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.