One step short of the goal

Lady Toppers State runners-up in 4A fast pitch


By Lisa Voyles

Chickasaw Journal

web softRIDGELAND – It wasn’t exactly how they wanted to end the season, but it wasn’t a bad place to be either.
The Houston Lady Hilltoppers closed out the 2013 fast pitch season with a repeat trip to the State Championship game and a trophy and medals for the runner-up position.
The Houston girls faced Newton County again this year and the Lady Cougars came up on the winning side of the scoreboard, but Coach Keith Jernigan said he has nothing but positive words for the team and their performance that sparked a back-to-back showing in the Championship game.
“It was a great season,” Jernigan said. “To make it back there (Ridgeland) was unexpected by many, but the girls really clicked together in the middle of the season. They set a goal that they were going to make it back to State and they did it.”
The Lady Toppers went undefeated in division play, clinching the division title and bested Amory, North Pontotoc and Corinth to earn their trip back to Freedom Park.
Although they were defeated, 16-3, 10-0, by the Lady Cougars, they ended the season at 26-8.
“We had a couple of early opportunities in both games, but they didn’t work out for us,” Jernigan said. “Of course, we were facing an opponent (Newton County) that has probably been there eight or so times in the last ten years. They were at the top of their game. They sort of peaked right there at the end of playoffs.”
2012 marked the first year the Lady Toppers softball team had ever made a trip to State Championships and they brought the first-place title home and Jernigan believes that a repeat trip this year can only help further the program.
“It’s a big building point for us,” Jernigan said. “The girls got lots of recognition from junior college and college coaches who were glad to see us back down there.”
He added that he is honored to be part of the successful program.
“I couldn’t be prouder of a group of girls that have played for me than them, especially these seniors (Yasmeen Cooper, Avery Springer and Audi Dendy),” Jernigan said. “It has been a priviledge to see them grow up and then watch them have such a great year. I’m glad they got to play at that level.No one wanted it more than they did.”
Jernigan said the community played a large role in the success of the team by showing support during the season and all the way to State.
“It has been overwhelming how supportive everyone has been of this program and these girls,” Jernigan said.