CALEDONIA — The New Hope High School softball team knew what it was up against.
With her team leading 8-4 headed into the fifth inning of Thursday’s road game at rival Caledonia, Trojans coach Casey Finch Halford issued a reminder that New Hope’s advantage might not be enough.
“Four’s not going to do it,” she warned.
Her players heard her, pushing across an additional three runs in the top of the seventh after Caledonia cut the lead in half in the sixth. The Trojans were glad they listened when Caledonia scored three more times in its final at-bat and brought the tying run to the plate before all was said and done.
Had New Hope not gotten that needed insurance, Finch Halford’s team would have headed home with a heartbreaking one-run loss. Instead, the Trojans (2-4) earned a split with the Cavs (4-3) by virtue of an 11-9 win.
“I told you when it was 8-4 that four wouldn’t do it,” Finch Halford told her players as the team huddled in the left-field grass postgame. “If you’d have stopped doing it and laid down then, you would have lost 9-8.”
But after losing four of their first five games, including Tuesday’s 7-3 home game against Caledonia, the Trojans showed they had matured enough not to pack it in when they broke a 3-3 tie with five runs in the top of the fourth.
Sophomore Madyson McBrayer, who had the go-ahead hit in the inning, said Thursday’s win proved New Hope’s offense is finally coming together.
“It meant a lot because we’ve not been on a roll lately,” she said. “Our bats have not been alive, but tonight we came alive, so we’re proud.”
With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, McBrayer laced a hard ground ball into left field bringing home two runs. When a snap throw from the catcher to third base bounced away at the end of the play, a third runner broke for the plate and scored when the return toss to home plate was dropped.
“I haven’t been hitting lately, so that’s a really big moment for me,” McBrayer said. “It just feels good to get the runs in and just put us on top.”
The Trojans’ five-run fourth featured three errors, which were a considerable part of Caledonia’s struggles, coach Andy Finch said. But while miscues on defense and occasional poor at-bats cost the Cavaliers, they remained competitive.
“We didn’t play our best game tonight, and we were still right there,” Finch said. “I love the way the girls competed every inning.”
Caledonia rebounded from a 3-0 deficit by pushing three runs across in the bottom of the third. After New Hope reclaimed the lead in the fourth, the Cavs scored on an error in the bottom of the inning. In the sixth, a bloop single and a fielder’s choice plated two more runs to make it an 8-6 game.
“They were down from the get-go, but they competed and battled back every inning,” Finch said. “They never did quit on us, and that’s what we want to see.”
But New Hope wouldn’t give in to the Caledonia comeback effort. In the top of the seventh, sophomore shortstop Kensley Woolbright plated a run with a single to left, and freshman catcher Zoe Goodman scored two with a base hit to right. The Trojans’ lead was back to five.
“We’re not really the team to lay down against people, so that really just showed how we play,” McBrayer said.
The extra tallies left the Trojans as the team celebrating when Caledonia sophomore Lauren Brown grounded to first to end the contest. Brown stood in as the potential tying run in an 11-9 game after senior Aimee George reached on a throwing error that brought in two runs, but McBrayer scooped up her ground ball and stepped on first base to cap the game.
Still, Finch praised the resilience of a Caledonia team playing three eighth-graders — pitcher Ava Arnold, outfielder Avery Johnston and infielder Zakiya Neal. Neal filled in for senior shortstop Jada Glasgow, who hurt her elbow on a throwing error in the fourth inning and had to leave a game.
“‘In the past,'” Finch told his players after the contest. “‘We had to pull teeth to get you to fight.'”
“This team is scrappy,” he added. “This team will fight you tooth and nail no matter what the score is.”
But on Thursday, so did New Hope. The Trojans rebounded from Tuesday’s loss and took a big step for a team that lost six of nine starters from last season.
“Our kids are just finding some confidence at the plate now, and they’re stringing on hits when it matters,” Finch Halford said. “They’re doing a lot of little things better each time we play.”
Meridian 17, Columbus 0
Amory def. West Point
Winston Academy 15, Heritage Academy 5, six innings
LOUISVILLE — An 11-run sixth inning cost the Heritage Academy baseball team in Thursday’s 15-5 run-rule loss to Winston Academy in six innings.
Mississippi State commit Aiden Fancher ended the game with a grand slam in the sixth as Winston put up 11 in the inning.
Caleb Hall and Rhett Ketchum each had two hits for Heritage Academy.
Jack Ketchum struck out six in four innings for the Patriots (12-2).
Heritage Academy will play Buckhorn (Alabama) at 5:30 p.m.. Friday at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
New Hope 12, Houston 5
NEW HOPE — A seven-run third inning led New Hope to a 12-5 win over Houston in Thursday’s home game.
The Trojans broke a 1-1 tie and took an 8-1 lead into the fourth inning. New Hope scored four more runs in the sixth to get some insurance.
New Hope will play Monday at Starkville.
West Point 9, Philadelphia 0
WEST POINT — West Point shut out Philadelphia 9-0 in Thursday’s home game.
John Austin Ricks, Cole Ellis and Jordan Fitzpatrick each had two hits for the Green Wave. Ricks and JD Tumey had two RBIs apiece.
Ellis had seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings as West Point held the Tornadoes to two hits in the game.
West Point will host Starkville on Friday.
Starkville Academy 6, Lamar School 5
STARKVILLE — A high-scoring fifth inning helped Starkville Academy beat Lamar School on Thursday in Starkville.
After the Raiders put up three runs in the top of the fifth to take a 3-2 lead, the Volunteers (7-3) responded with three of their own in the bottom of the frame to reclaim the advantage.
Starkville Academy added a run in the sixth, and Lamar got two back in the seventh but failed to tie the game.
Ayden Alsobrooks led the Vols with three hits, and Colby Allen drove in two runs.
Drew Williams had seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings pitched for the Vols. Porter Skelton had four strikeouts in two innings.
Starkville Academy will play at Madison-Ridgeland Academy at 2 p.m. Friday in Madison.
Choctaw County 10, Oak Hill Academy 0, five innings
WEST POINT — Oak Hill Academy was run-ruled 10-0 by Choctaw County on Thursday in West Point.
The Chargers scored eight runs in the top of the fifth to gain some separation, and the game ended when the Raiders couldn’t respond in their half of the inning.
Choctaw County scored two runs in the third on an error.
Oak Hill will host Hatley High School at 6 p.m. Friday.
Columbus Christian Academy 15, Regents School of Oxford 0
West Lowndes at Columbus — suspended, darkness
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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