JACKSON — The question whispered Saturday morning at the V.A. Fields was a good one.
Could a Hamilton High School slow-pitch softball team that used so many home runs to get to the state title series generate enough offense on a field with a fence 300 feet away?
Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest wondered the same thing as his team warmed up to face Enterprise.
“Playing on a big field I was afraid they were going to back up and we were going to hit it right to them,” Earnest said. “But they backed up and we still hit some over them, and hit some in the gaps, and hit some in front. We just hit it. We hit it good.”
Hamilton peppered the softball all over field No. 2 to the tune of 38 hits in a 13-4 and 15-2 sweep of its best-of-three Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A state title series.
The slow-pitch title is the first for Hamilton (19-9) since 2004. Last year, Hamilton lost to Clarkdale in two games in the Class 2A state title series.
The story Saturday was a 180-degree turnaround from 2008, when Earnest said the Lady Lions “never could put anything together” to expand a lead they had in the first game.
Against Enterprise, Hamilton hit line drive after line drive after line drive. The Lady Lions didn”t discriminate, as they hit them to right, left, and center fields, and used a parade of players with multiple hits to send seniors Chelsea McDaniel, Hannah Howell, Shelby Savage, Katie Beth Dahlem, Chauncia Willis, and Lyndsey Williams out in style.
“On a field with a 230-foot fence we would have had several home runs because we hit several balls deep,” Earnest said. “But we just hit it in the gaps today. We hit it everywhere they weren”t. I am sure they are a good team. We just never gave them a chance.”
In game one, Willis (double, two RBIs) and Dahlem (triple, three RBIs) each had three hits, while Anna Imel, Caitlyn Atkins, Savage (two RBIs), and Williams all had two hits. Howell also had two RBIs.
“We just said we needed to get basehits and line drives,” Williams said.
“Our famous saying is ” One hit at a time.” ”
Said Dahlem, “We knew if we did that we would win state, and that”s what we did.”
In game two, Caitlyn Atkins had four hits, scored four runs and had an RBI, Alison Atkins (triple, two RBIs), Howell (double, five RBIs), Savage (two RBIs), and Dahlem (RBI) had three hits. Williams had a single and two RBIs and Lexus Jordan had two hits and scored two runs.
The Lady Lions relied on their hot hitting to march through the North Half State playoffs. Against East Union, Hamilton had six home runs in the first game of that series, and eight in the sweep. Hamilton had 35 hits in a sweep of Baldwyn that secured their trip to Jackson.
With all of the rain in the past two weeks, Dahlem said the Lady Lions used their time indoors to practice hitting, and then practice hitting some more. She said the players didn”t alter their approach and just tried to make solid contact.
Williams said that practice paid off Saturday in a very direct way.
“We tried to hit the ball up the middle because there wasn”t anybody up the middle,” Williams said. “Our team is good at putting the ball where we want to.”
Earnest said the players naturally do a good job of spraying the softball all over the field. He didn”t know for sure if the Lady Lions would be able to continue to hit the ball well, but he believed in his players and was pleased to see not very many balls in the air.
“We just hit the ball on the nose today,” Earnest said. “We didn”t get under it much and didn”t hit many groundballs. There were a lot of line drives.
“It feels good. I have been down here so many times in baseball and softball. We have won three in baseball and won one in softball in ”04 and have been back and you feel like you can”t win the big one anymore. I was glad to break that streak. I am proud for the seniors because they have worked a long time for it.”
Said Dahlem, “It”s aaaaawesome. It”s the best feeling ever.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.