The highly anticipated showdown between No. 3 Stonewall and No. 4 Tupelo for a Class 2A Regional championship turned out to be a one-sided affair.
The Lady Tigers scored four quick runs, played stellar defense and limited host Stonewall to just four hits in a convincing 8-2 victory to earn a trip to next Tuesday’s Class 2A State Tournament.
Outgoing Tupelo head coach Jason Goostree will take his second straight team to the slowpitch state tournament and fourth overall thanks to a pair of trips during a stint with the Lady Tigers a decade ago. Melissa Rogers has been named the new head coach for Tupelo beginning next fall.
Goostree said he’s watched the Lady Tigers improve throughout the season. Tupelo had won 10 of its past 12 game heading into Thursday’s regional action and improved to 29-9 with the two latest victories.
“Since we came back from spring break, there really hasn’t been a bad week. We’ve gotten a little better each time,” he said. “That’s kind of what we talk about. We want to try and get a little better each day.”
The Lady Longhorns (37-11) bounced back and broke open a tight game late to knock off No. 15 Soper 8-3 in the regional consolation championship contest and will join Tupelo next week at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
“We feel very fortunate to be playing next week. We didn’t hit like we’re capable of, but hopefully we’re saving those up. We got beat by a really, really good team in Tupelo,” Jennings said. “I think we have a great shot of playing them again in the state tournament. That will show how outstanding softball is here in this part of the state.”
Tupelo blanked Soper 10-0 in its first-round contest while Stonewall rallied past Cameron 6-4 in the other first-round game.
Soper (17-8) eliminated No. 16 Cameron 1-0 in a loser-out contest.
Tupelo 8, Stonewall 2
Tupelo nearly made it back-to-back shutouts. But Stonewall broke the ice when Brettney Brady doubled to lead off the fourth and Cheyanne Miller followed by belting a two-run homer that just cleared the fence in right field.
But Stonewall managed just two more hits over the remaining six innings — a two-out line drive up the middle by Kimberly Helms with two outs in the third and a one-out single by Miller in the bottom of the seventh.
“They outplayed us from top to bottom. They deserved to win,” said Stonewall head coach Christie Jennings.
The Lady Tigers went right to work in the top of the first, scoring four runs to take the early lead.
An error and singles by Kayley Sanders and Shanna Davidson loaded the bases with nobody out. Landra Nelson followed with an RBI hit while Chesna Henry and Tamara Thompson each hit sacrifice fly. Samantha Stein drove in the fourth run with a base hit up the middle.
Tupelo used a two-out rally to get another run in the second. Grace Leland started things off with a hit and Sanders followed with her second base knock of the game. Davidson drove in the run with an RBI single and Nelson walked to load the bases. But Henry lined out to Miller in center field to keep the score at 5-0.
Miller’s homer made it 5-2 but Tupelo scored twice more in the top of the fifth. After Davidson and Nelson led off with hits, Stein drew a two-out walk to load the bases. Aspen Collins then delivered a clutch two-run single to push the Tupelo lead to 7-2.
Nelson put an exclamation point on the victory with her solo home run with one out in the seventh. The Lady Tigers finished with 13 hits.
“We hit it good enough. We hit it when we had to. But any time you get into the playoffs, it’s hard to score 15 or 20 runs. The way I look at it, you survive and get on to the next day,” Goostree said.
Tupelo’s defense was superb. Leland made several nifty plays from her shortstop position, including making a leaping catch of a Daffern line drive with one out in the fifth to rob her of a base hit.
“Defensively, I thought we played pretty well for most of the day,” Goostree said. “They (Stonewall) hit it as well as anybody else. I know they hit six or seven balls really hard. We just happened to go make a play.”
Nelson led the Tupelo offense, going 3-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Davidson also had three hits and scored twice for the Lady Tigers while Sanders and Thompson added two hits each.
Stonewall 8, Soper 3
Stonewall was clinging to a 4-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth before finally getting some breathing room with a four-run volley.
Bradianne Daniel started things off with a walk before Breann Gipson smacked a double to the fence in center field. Kaitlinn Wright followed with a two-run single and Savannah Burwell iced the outburst by blasting her first out-of-the-park home run of the spring (in the final home at-bat of her career) to boost the SHS lead to 8-3.
“We’re all about making it dramatic. They never do anything easy. They want everyone to get their money’s worth,” Jennings said.
Tupelo scored twice in the first when Brady and Daniel ripped back-to-back triples to start the game. Daniel scored after her triple on a Soper throwing error.
The Lady Longhorns made it 4-0 with two more runs in the third. Helms slapped a single to right field and Brittany Gipson walked. Those two later scored on a sac fly by Daniel and a ground ball off the bat of Miller.
Soper used a pair of clutch two-out hits in the top of the fourth to trim the Stonewall lead to 4-2. Kelbey Songer hit an RBI double down the left field line and she would score on a base hit from Kori Jeffreys.
Soper then made things interesting by pushing across an error-aided run in the top of the sixth. Another base hit by Jeffreys plated that run. The Red Bears stranded a pair of base runners in that inning when Stonewall catcher Daffern made a nice grab of a short popup down the line by Marissa Phillips and Sage Rice grounded back to pitcher Amanda Transue.
Brady was the only Stonewall player with more than one hit, but eight different Lady Longhorns scored or drove in a run. Even Paige Curtis, who injured her ankle during districts and wasn’t in the starting lineup for Stonewall, got into the act when she hit a pinch hit double that missed clearing the fence by inches.
Jennings said folks didn’t see Stonewall at its best on Thursday, but hopes that will change next Tuesday.
“It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get there. Now we’re gonna try to go make some noise at state,” she said.
Tupelo 10, Soper 0
The game was scoreless for three innings before the Lady Tigers scored four runs in the fourth to break the tie. Tupelo got an RBI single from Sanders in the inning, a sacrifice fly by Leland and a bases-loaded walk from Kelsie Warner.
Davidson hit a two-run double in a three-run Tupelo sixth that made it 7-0.
The Lady Tigers then scored three more in the seventh with Sanders getting another RBI hit.
Aspen Collins led a 14-hit Tupelo attack, finishing a perfect 4-for-4. Sanders followed with three hits while Davidson went 2-for-2 with three RBIs.
Stonewall 6, Cameron 4
Stonewall trailed 3-0 before scoring five times in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for good.
Daniel, Brady and Daffern all and RBI singles in the SHS uprising. Daffering added an RBI hit in the sixth to push the lead to 6-3 before Cameron scored a run in the seventh before Transue shut the door.
Wright went 2-for-3 and scored twice for the hosts while Daffern had two hits and two RBIs.
Cindy Hicks finished 3-for-3 in a losing cause for Cameron (17-20).