By Brad Greer
With tears in her eyes after receiving hugs from teammates, moments after the Tigers 2-0 victory over Harrison Central Saturday, South Panola senior catcher Casi Brooks came to the realization that she had played her last game at Tiger Park.
“I’ve been playing softball since the eighth grade and we’ve only lost one home game and that was last Saturday to Southaven. So yeah it’s kind of sad to leave this place. We’ve won a lot of games here and I am going to miss it a lot,” said Brooks.
Game two of the best-of-game three series for the class 5A state championship was played last night at Harrison Central.
South Panola, (29-4), got all the runs they would need in the bottom of the first inning as Brooks laced a two-out single to score Whitney Kiihnl for a 1-0 lead. The Tigers would add an insurance run in the fourth. Jennifer Newcomb slapped a RBI single into left field to chase home Kasey Kelsay, who had reached base after getting hit by a pitch.
The rest of the day belonged to Kiihnl and the air-tight Tiger defense as the senior right-hander used her blazing fastball and changeup to keep the Red Rebelettes off balance the entire day.
Kiihnl, (26-3) surrendered three hits on the day while striking out 15 and not allowing a walk. The South Panola defense meanwhile scooped up everything hit to them and did not make a error on the day.
“Whitney’s changeup has been working better the last few games than her riseball. Coach (Ashleigh) Hicks has let me call the pitches and we’ve been throwing it (changeup) a lot. Sometimes the riseball works better, sometimes the changeup does,” said Brooks.
Harrison Central (20-17), playing without pitching ace Ana Aguirre who sprained her ankle against Brandon last week, put runners on first and second with one out in the top of the seventh only to see Kiihnl in fine fashion strike out the final two batters to end the game.
South Panola collected five hits on the day while stranding seven runners on base. The Tigers have roped 26 hits in their last three games, something that Hicks has been waiting to see.
“A lot of our focus at practice has been our hitting. We feel our defense is where it needs to be so we’ve been working a lot at the plate. I think we’re peaking just at the right time. We hit some balls right on the nose today but unfortunately some were right at them. We had a chance to score some more runs there in the fifth but our runners got caught in no-mans land and there wasn’t much you could do about that,” said Hicks.
Kiihnl had a pair of singles while Brooks, Newcomb and Kelsey each had singles.