STARKVILLE — Starkville High School senior center fielder Karlie Brooks got the biggest cheer of Wednesday evening’s home game against South Panola when she ripped the softball into right field with two out in the fifth.
But as soon as the Yellow Jackets’ dugout and the bleachers on the third-base side of home plate erupted, Brooks’ line drive found the waiting glove of the Tigers’ right fielder. She was out, and the inning was over.
It was one of many examples of South Panola’s defensive supremacy over Starkville in Wednesday’s MHSAA Class 6A, Region 3 opener. The Tigers were sound in the field while the Jackets (2-3) struggled, and South Panola pitcher Rebekah Cook didn’t allow a single baserunner in a 10-0, six-inning win for the visitors.
“Anytime that you can make the routine play helps the pitcher out,” Starkville coach Ronald Campbell said. “The fact that they made the routine play and that their pitcher threw strikes, certainly that helped them to do what they did.”
Cook had 12 strikeouts in her first career perfect game, but she gave her teammates credit for the performance as well.
“It felt like we all worked really hard together,” the senior said. “It wasn’t just one player coming in and doing something to help win the game; it was everybody together, and I think that’s what helped the most.”
The Tigers used a four-run third inning to gain some separation from the Jackets as multiple errors hurt Starkville. After senior Bailey Ware beat out a bunt single, senior Haven Dulin laid down a bunt and reached base as the throw from Jackets catcher JacQuasha Brown skipped away down the right-field line. South Panola brought Ware around to score, and Dulin made it to second on an error on the throw back to the infield.
Campbell credited Starkville senior Brianne Locke, who pitched the first five innings for throwing strikes and giving the Jackets an opportunity to stay in the game. But Starkville’s defense made it hard for the Jackets to compete.
“She gave us a chance, but at the end, we’ve got to make routine plays,” Campbell said. “That’s basically what we talk about every day is being able to make the routine play.”
The Jackets made a couple not-so-routine plays — diving snags by Locke at shortstop in the sixth and by senior Gabrielle Eaves in left field — but errors continued to sting.
South Panola pushed across its tenth run with two out in the top of the sixth on a dropped throw at first base, giving the Tigers the run-rule win when Cook struck out Eaves to close out the bottom of the inning.
“Offensively, we didn’t compete like I wanted us to compete,” Campbell said. “I think we took a few too many strikes and let their pitcher get ahead. After she gets us 1-2, 0-2, then she goes to the change-up to get the strikeout.”
Cook said Wednesday’s win set the pace for South Panola in Region 3-6A play, but Campbell said he was confident the Jackets can improve.
“Overall, I’m not really that upset about it,” he said. “It’s a long season. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and I can see us getting there.”
Mooreville 7, Caledonia 0
MOOREVILLE — Mississippi State commit Jud Files pitched a complete-game shutout as Caledonia was blanked by Mooreville in Wednesday’s road game.
Files struck out eight in his seven innings of work on the mound. At the plate, he had two hits and drove in two runs for the Troopers.
Braxton Harris had one of Caledonia’s two hits. Loren Cox had seven strikeouts in five innings pitched.
Caledonia will host Mooreville on Friday.