Five Coast teams still have a shot at winning a state fastpitch softball Championship.
Harrison Central faces St. Martin for the 6A South State crown in a best-of-3 series. West Harrison faces Pearl River Central in the 5A South State Final series. St. Patrick meets Philadelphia in the 3A South state finals.
St. Martin (17-7) plays host to Game 1 at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The Red Rebelettes (24-4) will host Games 2 and 3 (if needed) at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Lady Hurricanes (17-14) travel to PRC (20-9) at 5:30 p.m. Friday for Game 1, then host Games 2 and 3 (if needed) at 2 p.m. Saturday. St. Patrick (28-2) travels to Philadelphia (22-3) in Game 1 at 6 p.m. Friday, then host Games 2 and 3 (if needed) at 4 p.m. Saturday.
For the third straight year, Harrison Central and St. Martin meet in the 6A South State finals. The Red Rebelettes have won the previous two meetings, en-route to capturing consecutive 6A state titles. Simone McKinney and pitchers Madison Burge and Kristen Cade lead the Red Rebelettes. Katelyn Gruich and pitcher Rebecca Anderson lead the Lady Jackets.
"Each year it gets tougher and tougher for us," Harrison Central coach Jimmy Parker said. "St. Martin has been hungry every year. St. Martin always step it up whenever they play us. I expect nothing less. They've built a tradition and expect to be at South State."
St. Martin coach Donna Swilley welcomes the challenge of dethroning the Red Rebelettes.
"They play very good softball," Swilley said. "They are not going to beat themselves. You have to beat them. They have a lot of speed and put the ball in play. We are going to have to minimize our mistakes to advance. You have to beat the best to be the best. We are ready."
The Lady Hurricanes seek a second straight 5A South State title, but PRC stands in the way. The two Coast teams haven't played in a few years.
West Harrison is led by pitcher Stephanie Necaise. The Lady Devils have a pitching rotation of Taylor Harris, Hailee Burras and Jade Latham.
"They have three good pitchers," Lady Hurricanes coach Brittany Rogers said. "At this point, you have to prepare for the level of competition. Our girls have been in situations like this before, PRC haven't. But we still have to show up and play."
PRC is playing in its first-ever South State Finals.
"It'll be a tremendous challenge for us," Lady Devils coach Tony LaBella said. "We know it'll be difficult trying to beat them. West Harrison has solid pitching and a good mix of experienced players. They're fundamentally sound and well-coached. We're not just happy to get to South State. We want to leave it on the field."
Philadelphia ended St. Patrick's run at a fourth straight 3A state title last year. Lady Irish coach Tommy Castanedo expects another tough series for the Sun Herald's top-ranked softball team, led by pitcher Anna D'Aquilla and Elizabeth Zorich.
"Philadelphia is a very seasoned team," Castanedo said. "They are the most athletic team we have played this season, with speed throughout the lineup. They have two pitchers that will give you different looks, one spins the ball very well and the other throws hard. So, we will try to prepare for both today. We are going to have to play our best ball of the season. I am really proud of our pitchers, Anna D'Aquilla and Morgan Redmond, they have done a terrific job for us this year as sophomores. Offensively, we can hit with anyone, we are going to score runs. We are going to have to make the routine plays on defensive if we are going to be successful this weekend."
Veto Roley contributed to this report.