| By Myra Bean
and Danielle Bean
Battling nausea, cold winds and intermittent rain, South Panola pitcher Whitney Kiihnl led her Lady Tigers to a 4-1 win over the Horn Lake Lady Eagles Tuesday night.
Along with that win came the District 1-5A Division 1 championship. The Lady Tigers (24-4 overall, 5-1 district) earned the right to host the first round of the playoffs.
This is the first time the fastpitch team has made the playoffs and won the district.
Today, they will host Clinton in the best two of three series. A double-header starts at 4 p.m. with the second game scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The third game, if needed, will be played Tuesday.
The winner of this series will play the winner of the Tupelo/Vicksburg series April 19 and 21 in another best of three series.
The No. 5 ranked Lady Tigers and the No. 4 ranked Lady Eagles were locked in a battle for the top spot. Horn Lake had defeated the Lady Tigers 1-0 on March 2. South Panola needed to win by two runs to take the title away from Horn Lake.
"This was a dream come true," said first year Lady Tiger head coach Ashleigh Hicks. "We knew coming into the game we were going to be locked into a battle."
The Desoto Times in Southaven jumped the gun in its Tuesday publication declaring Horn Lake the district champs.
"On the softball field, there is no mystery about who is in and out of the state playoffs as Horn Lake has won Region 1-5A and will host an opponent still to be decided on Saturday in the first two of the best of the three series," the article stated. "Before they get to the first-round playoff game, however, Horn Lake will play at South Panola tonight at 5 p.m."
Horn Lake scored first in the top of the first. The lead off batter tripled then scored on a Lady Tiger fielding error.
That was the extent of their scoring. The Horn Lake pitcher struck out nine Lady Tigers.
Kiihnl pitched the complete game which went seven innings and struck out 15 batters, but walked five, allowed two hits and one earned run.
"They did everything I asked them to," Hicks said. "To be down by one and come back and score four runs is tremendous for this team."
The game remained 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth inning. Designated hitter Bethany Moore singled to left field. Shortstop Hillari Plummer singled and got to base when the Horn Lake pitcher failed to secure the ball. Kiihnl hit a single RBI (run batted in) and drove home Sabrina Townsend, courtesy runner for Moore, for the tie.
Plummer scored on a passed ball to give the Lady Tigers the lead, 2-1.
In the sixth inning, third baseman Haylei Plummer walked to get on base and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Casi Brooks, who got the first hit of the game, a triple, in the fourth inning.
Moore singled again to drive home Haylei Plummer for the 3-1 lead. Hillari Plummer singled to drive home Latara Farrell, courtesy runner for Moore, for the fourth and final run.
The Horn Lake pitcher retired the first three Lady Tiger batters in the first inning with strikeouts. In the second inning, the next three Lady Tigers grounded out.
In the third inning, Leann Parrish got on base on a walk, but was unable to advance. As the game progressed, the Lady Tigers hit their stride and took away Horn Lake’s advantage and managed to rattle the pitcher.
Horn Lake is No. 2 in Division 1 and will be on the road to play Brandon in the first round of the playoffs.
The winner of that series will take on the winner of the Madison Central/Columbus series.
The Lady Tigers finished the regular season at home last night against Hernando, but the score was not available at press time.
The South Panola Tiger baseball team (17-7-1) was set to host Olive Branch in a district game Tuesday night.
The junior varsity game was played and Olive Branch won 9-3. The varsity game was started and the Tigers had a 3-0 lead going into the top of the third.
The rain which had been intermittent throughout the evening came in a steady downpour and the two coaches and officials decided to postpone the game until Thursday night. The score was not available at press time.
The Tigers will play their final district game of the season at Olive Branch tonight at 5 and 7 p.m. If the Tigers win both of these games, they will make the playoffs.
If the Tigers lose, they will finish the regular season tomorrow hosting Water Valley in non-conference play at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.