HOUSTON – The Lady Toppers started looking toward a repeat trip to Jackson ever since they left as champions in May 2012.
And now, they’ll get their chance.
The Lady Toppers took three games to finish their best-of-three series with Corinth for North Half, but they got the two wins they needed to secure their spot at Freedom Park in Ridgeland this weekend.
“It was an amazing series,” said Coach Keith Jernigan. “They just hate losing.”
The series started in Houston May 10 with the Lady Warriors taking an 0-2 lead in the top of the second, but it didn’t take the Lady Toppers long to retaliate.
With two outs, Taylor Lancaster singled over second and Alexis McShan added a single up the third base line. Chelsea Gates got the clutch hit with a two RBI triple to tie the game.
In the bottom of the third, Avery Springer started things off with a single and Audi Dendy advanced her with a sac bunt. Springer stole third and a pass ball at Madeline Burdine’s at-bat scored her to put the Houston girls up 3-2.
The Lady Toppers added one more run in the sixth as Burdine doubled to send Josie Anderson across the plate and held the Lady Warriors for the 4-2 win.
The series headed to Corinth Saturday and a batting frenzy ensued. The Houston girls recorded 11 hits and three home runs (Gates, Mary Kansas Sullivan and McShan) in the second game, still taking a 7-12 loss and forcing a third game.
“We had a few errors early (in the second game) and struggled a little,” Jernigan said. “We never really did get on pace.”
Following the split, Jernigan saw the team take charge of their destiny.
“After that loss, they got together and pulled together,” Jernigan said. “You could just see it, you could see they were coming to win. It was the most dominating game I’ve seen in a long time.”
The Lady Toppers came strong at the plate, scoring in every inning, with another homerun by Burdine and a grand-slam by Sullivan. They turned 19 hits into a 17-5 win to put them in the State championship game.
“I’ve always believed they could win, but about a week before playoffs started, you could really see it in pratice and the way they worked that they believed it too,” Jernigan said.
The Lady Toppers will play the winner of Newton County and Poplarville, who are completing their series this week.
Game One is set for Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and Game Two will begin at noon Saturday. A third game, if necessary, will follow.
Jernigan made his first trip to State with the Houston girls last fast-pitch season and is ready to go again.
“It has been a tremendous honor to coach them,” Jernigan said. “Every player stepping on that field had a big role, an important role to play.”