RIDGELAND -- Jimmy Parker has been coaching Harrison Central fast-pitch softball since 1995, with three state championships under his belt, but he said this year's team might be the best offensively he has ever had. The Red Rebelettes certainly looked the part Thursday, banging out 13 hits in a 14-3 win over South Panola in the opening game of the best-of-three MHSAA 6A championship series.
"Right now we're probably hitting the ball as well as any team I have ever had," Parker said. "In the middle of the season, we weren't getting anything out of the middle of the order. Now that the middle has started to step up from four, five, six and seven, that has helped us."
The seven and nine hole hitters, freshman Jhericka Strickland and sophomore Daijah Richardson, led the attack. Strickland had three doubles, drove in four runs and scored twice. Richardson had two doubles, a single, three RBIs and two runs scored.
The assault came at the expense of one of the state's top pitchers. Caroline Dickens entered the game with a 20-2 record and a 0.97 ERA for South Panola.
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Senior Madison Burge (10-1) went the distance for the win, allowing six hits and one earned run in a game stopped after six innings by the 10-run mercy rule. Parker was not sure if Burge or sophomore Kristin Cade would start Game 2 at 1 p.m. Friday at Freedom Ridge Park when the Red Rebellettes go for a third straight 6A title.
Burge said she began to feel the mid-80s heat in the late innings, but will ready if called on Friday. Game 3, if necessary, will be Saturday.
Parker is concerned about overconfidence after such an easy win, and added he would discuss that subject with his team.
"We were beaten 9-1 by Madison Central two years ago on Friday night and came back to win two on Saturday," he said. "So anything can happen."
Harrison Central is 26-4. The Red Rebellettes have scored 58 runs in winning seven of eight playoff games. South Panola is 25-5.