On the road to the playoffs
Local teams trying to advance another round
By Lisa Voyles
HOUSTON – The road to playoffs officially opened for traffic last weekend as the Vardaman Lady Rams and Houlka Lady Wildcats entered the play-in round in fast-pitch softball, but the pathway to State will have to be widened this week as several more local teams roll in.
Lady Toppers want a repeat
The Houston Lady Hilltoppers put a feather in their caps last year, clinching the 4A State title and are set to try for a repeat this season.
The Houston girls took top honors in division at 10-0 which bought them a bye in the play-in round, but they picked up an extra game with South Pontotoc April 19.
The Lady Topper handled the Lady Cougars, dealing them a 13-1 loss in five inning with Audi Dendy improving her record on the mound to 15-3. Dendy, Chelsea Gates and Taylor Lancaster all recorded multiple hits with Lancaster hitting a double. Talaja Echoles had a triple and Madeline Burdine homered in the effort.
The Lady Toppers closed the regular season with an overall record of 20-5 and are expected to face Amory in their first round of playoffs this weekend.
The Lady Toppers and Lady Panthers have a long history together as they shared a division for many years, but haven’t faced each other this season.
Coach Keith Jernigan knows underestimating Amory is never a good idea.
“We haven’t played them yet, but we’ll have to step up. They’re loaded,” Jernigan said. “Hopefully, we’ll be ready.”
The Lady Toppers will be on the road Friday in Amory for game one and will return to Houston Saturday. Game two will begin at 2 p.m., followed by game three if needed.
Houston hosts Yazoo Friday
As if the Flywheel Festival wasn’t reason enough to draw people to the area, the Hilltoppers are doing their part to increase tourism by hosting Yazoo County in the first round of playoffs Friday night.
The Houston boys finished up the regular season at 21-4, 6-4 and will begin game one Friday at 6 p.m., using this week as preparation.
“We will have a great week of practice, kind of like the beginning of the year going over some basics,” Gann said. “This is a new season, so we will hit the ground running like it’s early February, just with better weather.”
In the best-of-three format, the Toppers will be on the road Saturday playing game two in Yazoo County at 1 p.m. with the third game to follow if necessary.
“The great thing with baseball and the format is it’s the best two out of three and anything can happen,” Gann said.
Even while encouraging fans to come out to support the baseball team, Gann is willing to share school support with the Touchdown club’s annual catfish dinner fundraiser.
“Everbody needs to go support the football program and eat catfish at the Flywheel Festival, then come on over for some baseball,” Gann said.
Wildcats hit the road
The Houlka Wildcats are making their second trip to playoffs in as many years and will start on the road to Shaw Friday night. Game one will begin at 6 p.m. and the Wildcats will be back at home Saturday for game two at 1 p.m.
Coach Jimmy Guy McDonald said the team is healthy and ready to play.
“I think we ended up on the good side of the bracket,” McDonald said. “With Smithville beating TCPS, that puts them on the other side and they’ll have to face Greenville St. Joe on their side. Only one of them will come out the other side so we’ll have to beat one of them, not both of them.”
In addition to making playoffs, the team has another celebration planned for Saturday. They will hold senior recognition and, prior to the game, will retire the flag that has flown over the baseball field all season in honor of the late Jimbo Byars.
Byars passed away in Novembmer 2012 and the team dedicated their season to the former teacher and coach. The flag will be retired and presented to Byars’ wife, Sonja, and children, Joby and Sawyer.