South Panola Fastpitch Softball
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2007
MHSAA 2007 State Fastpitch Softball Champions
South Panola Lady Tigers
South Panola Lady Tigers down defending state champion Oak Grove in two games 1-0, 3-1
By Myra Bean
“It was set up perfectly,” said Ashleigh Hicks, South Panola High School head fastpitch softball coach, following the state championship game Saturday. “Give God the glory.”
The Lady Tigers (35-4) then defeated the Oak Grove Lady Warriors (23-2-1) 3-1 to win the state fastpitch championship.
Oak Grove had a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth.
A confrontation on questionable calls between Hicks and the home plate umpire in the top of the sixth caused a few minutes delay in the game.
An estimated crowd of 600 plus was also agitated over the no-calls. Two attempted bunts by an Oak Grove batter should have been strikes argued Hicks because the batter moved her bat.
After Hicks returned to the dugout, Brooks called a time out and had a conference with the defense, without the coach.
Whatever was said worked as the team focused and got back on track, while Kiihnl struck out the remaining two batters and the Lady Tigers went on to score.
There was a marked difference in the atmosphere of the game following Hick’s challenge.
The four leadoff batters won the game for the Lady Tigers. Pitcher Whitney Kiihnl, second baseman Kasey Kelsay and third baseman Haylei Plummer all laid down bunts and beat the throws, loading the bases in the bottom of the sixth.
Catcher Casi Brooks, batting cleanup, fouled her first pitch then looked to Hicks for directions.
“Casi, when she fouls that one away, she turns and looks at me and I saw her eyes were watery,” Hicks said. “Like she was pumped, not like she is scared. When I saw her eyes, I knew she was going to do this.
“Really, she is our power hitter,” Hicks continued. “We were in a great situation. The first three did their jobs and were on base.”
Brooks connected for a triple sending the ball to right field just inside the baseline. The three runners took off and had no trouble clearing the bases giving the Lady Tigers runs needed to go ahead and win, plus one for insurance.
When Latara Ferrell replaced Brooks at third as courtesy runner, the dugout emptied to congratulate a crying Brooks. Her tears were not the only ones flowing as her teammates and coach were also noticeably wet-cheeked.
Oak Grove scored its lone run in the top of the fifth. Leadoff batter shortstop Courtney Hill hit a triple to left field. A Lady Tiger error overthrowing first base allowed third baseman Chandler Ivy to get on base and Hill to score for the 1-0 lead.
The Lady Tigers left in the dugout while South Panola was on defense made a pinky finger line drawing in photographers, reporters and principal Dr. Gearl Loden to support Kiihnl as she struck out three batters in the top of the seventh. Ivy watched Kiihnl’s last fast ball go by for a strike and the Lady Tiger win.
Game 1 – Kiihnl pitches no hitter
South Panola and Oak Grove met Thursday in Hattiesburg in the first game of the state championship. Approximately 75 people made the trip from Batesville to Hattiesburg.
South Panola won 1-0 and handed Oak Grove its first loss of the season.
The Lady Tigers probably stunned Oak Grove when Kiihnl got on base with her speed after she laid down a bunt as the leadoff batter in the first inning.
Plummer followed with a single to right field to drive Kiihnl home for the only run of the game.
A catch by left fielder Haley Hood in the top of the sixth, stopped possible extra bases by Oak Grove’s Ivy and preserved the no-hitter by Kiihnl.
South Panola committed two errors in the game which allowed runners on base and Kiihnl walked two. She struck out 17 of 25 batters.
Oak Grove’s pitcher Ashlyn Williams struck out 10 Lady Tigers, allowed five hits and one run. The team committed no errors.
In game two, Kiihnl pitched 13 strikeouts, walked one, allowed six hits and one run. The team committed three errors.
Williams struck out nine, allowed eight hits, three runs, no walks and no errors.
The two seniors on the Lady Tigers team are Lindsey Thaggard and Leann Parrish.
Assistant coach John “J.D.” Davis was very complimentary of the two for sticking with the team throughout the years.
In an emotionally choked voice about the state championship win Davis said, “I think the whole world of Leann and Lindsey. They have been through a whole lot of coaching changes and stuck with it. I can’t say enough about them sticking with it and being leaders of the team.”
Davis is finishing his fifth year as assistant coach of the team.
“I’ve been with them when it was our goal to win 10 games,” Davis said. “Then, just to win a district ball game was our goal. Now, we are winners of a state championship. We’ve come from the bottom up.”
Parrish said it felt “great” to get the state championship win.
“I never thought we’d be here,” Parrish said. “I did not know if we would make it this far, but it’s great. I’m just glad we had a great coach to come in my last year and we could win it all, everything.”
Thaggard said putting God first and everybody working together got them this far.
“He made this happen and that really helped us out a lot,” Thaggard said.
Thaggard said the team worked really hard to get to the state championship.
“We don’t ever miss practice,” she said. “We work hard starting with the little things and follow through with everything that comes behind it.
“Coach Hicks said, ‘You stick with me and I’ll stick with you,’” Thaggard said. “She believed in us and that is really what we needed from the start. She told us from the very start she knew this team had talent.
“We had to bring it all together,” she added. “Her believing in us really helped us bring that out.”
The teams were presented their trophies for champion and runner-up on the field following the ballgame. Each team member received a medallion which was placed around their necks by their respective coaches.
Loden praised the community for coming out in full force and supporting the team in the very important game.