|EMCC Lady Lions claim outright division softball title with home sweep of Itawamba|
After holding on a for a 4-2 win in the opener, the Lady Lions had to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull out a dramatic 5-4 comeback victory in the nightcap.SCOOBA – The freshman battery of catcher Jessie Clark and pitcher Amy Johnson lifted the East Mississippi Community College Lady Lions to a home doubleheader sweep of visiting Itawamba Friday afternoon to claim the school’s first outright MACJC North Division fastpitch softball championship.
With the twinbill sweep of defending division champion ICC on ‘Sophomore Day’ at the EMCC Softball Field, head coach Kate Neely’s Lady Lions finished the regular season with a 19-5 league record to earn a No. 1 seed in next week’s MACJC State Softball Tournament to be held April 28-30 at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC in Perkinston. The division title also secures East Mississippi of an automatic berth in the upcoming NJCAA Region 23 Championship to be played May 5-7 at Traceway Park in Clinton.
“At the beginning of the year, I told the team that we had the talent, drive and willpower to accomplish something like this,” Neely noted. “All year, we never quit and never gave up, and now I am so proud of each and every one of them for being a part of school history.”
Entering Friday’s doubleheader deadlocked with Itawamba atop the MACJC’s North Division standings with identical 17-5 league marks, EMCC had to win both contests against the Lady Indians in order to earn the program’s first outright division softball title since the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges implemented fastpitch competition in 2001. Just last week in Fulton, the Lady Lions had dropped two road decisions (3-2 and 13-9) to Itawamba to force Friday’s must-sweep situation because of the head-to-head tiebreaker rule to decide tournament seeding.
During both contests in Scooba, the home-standing Lady Lions broke 1-1 deadlocks with late-inning rallies. However, in the nightcap, it took a history-making comeback effort in the final frame by EMCC after seeing a 3-1 lead dissipate by way of ICC’s three-run top of the seventh. With the home team trailing 4-3, sophomore Cayla Coleman got things going for the Lady Lions in the seventh with a leadoff walk on four pitches. Following a pop out, fellow sophomore Mallory Pace singled up the middle on a two-strike pitch. A subsequent groundout brought Clark to the plate with two outs and both runners in scoring position. The hitting hero for EMCC in the opener who huddled with her head coach prior to her final at-bat of the day, Clark promptly delivered a clutch first-pitch single to left field to plate both Coleman and Pace.
“I just told her that she was the one person I’d want to have hitting for us in that situation,” Neely added. “She just looked at me and said, ‘I gotcha coach’.”
On the day, Clark, a member of Clarkdale High School’s 2008 state championship slowpitch club, went 3-for-7 at the plate with a pair of runs batted in both games. After a fourth-inning single in the first game, Clark followed Lainie Simcox’s leadoff double in the sixth with a two-run blast to left field to break a 1-1 tie. The homer was Clark’s second of the season, with both round-trippers coming this week. Clark belted her first collegiate home run in the first inning of the first game during EMCC’s doubleheader split at Mississippi Delta on Tuesday.
Johnson, the other half of the team’s standout rookie pitcher-catcher tandem, was steady in the circle once again for the Lady Lions during their regular-season finale. The Starks, La., native scattered 14 hits over 14 innings to pick up the pair of complete-game victories and raise her pitching record to 17-11 on the year.
As the Lady Lions had 10 hits as a team in the nightcap, Pace and Cory Roberson, also a Clarkdale product, each had two hits for the winners. A former Northeast Lauderdale standout, Pace had earlier delivered a critical two-run single to the opposite field to give EMCC a 3-1 lead after five innings in the second contest. Coleman - one of four former Clarkdale players on EMCC’s roster along with sophomore outfielder Courtney Castleberry – had a pair of singles and a key sacrifice fly for the Lady Lions in the opener.
Now 23-20 overall on the year, the top-seeded EMCC Lady Lions will take on No. 4 South seed Pearl River on Thursday (April 28) at 2 p.m. during the first day of the single-elimination MACJC State Softball Tournament to be played in Perkinston. The EMCC-PRCC winner will advance to meet the winner of Thursday’s East Central-Northwest Mississippi contest Friday afternoon at 2 p.m.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 22 April 2011 )|
|< Prev||Next >|