From 2012 to 2014, it was hard to find a better softball program in the state than St. Patrick as the Lady Irish ripped off three consecutive Class 3A state championships. With the last two 3A titles going elsewhere to Philadelphia and Mooreville, the Lady Irish have gold in their sights once again as they hope to reclaim the golden glove.
No. 2 St. Patrick (17-2) is certainly feeling good heading into the final week of the regular season after clinching their seventh consecutive Region 8-3A title. In the midst of a 51-0 streak against division foes, the impressive undefeated mark speaks to the Lady Irish’s dominance and, at times, the underwhelming composition of their regional opponents; St. Patrick outscored 8-3A teams 121-3 this year.
As such, St. Patrick has scheduled “up” this week against Class 6A opponents in an effort to better prepare the Lady Irish for what they’re hoping is a prolonged playoff run. St. Patrick will visit Oak Grove on Wednesday and No. 1 Harrison Central on Friday.
“They all have good pitchers,” coach Cullen Hawkins said Monday of this week’s competition. “These games are meant to help get the bats ready for the playoffs.”
The Irish have received production from a number of players this season, with seniors, juniors and even a couple of sophomores coming up big.
“The motto all year has been ‘win as one,’” Hawkins said. “If they play together and get in the mindset of being able to ‘win as one’ that would be great.”
Hawkins highlighted the performances of sophomores Anna Grace Castanedo and Sarah D’Aquilla. Castanedo leads St. Patrick with a .518 average and has also hit 19 RBIs with seven doubles. D’Aquilla leads St. Patrick with six homers to go along with a .378 average and 23 RBIs.
Junior ace Anna D’Aquilla has put together one of her more masterful seasons, boasting a 16-2 record with a 1.32 ERA. In 90 1/3 innings, she has struck out 105 against just 17 walks.
“I think (all the success) starts with the pitching,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think Anna has had a bad season since she has been here. She’s been fantastic.”
Raven Blackwell leads the team with 14 stolen bases and also boasts a .480 average. Morgan McCrea is close behind with a .473 average. Her 14 extra-base hits are tops on the team. Marissa Hanley has a team-best 27 RBIs.
The early exits the last two years have only served as additional motivation heading into the 2017 playoffs.
“I think it definitely bugs a lot of them that we’ve been so close the last couple years,” he said. “The juniors and seniors have been there before so it's good to have that playoff experience.
“The underclassmen are itching (to win a championship).”
Following a first-round bye, the Lady Irish will play the winner of Franklin County and Morton. If the Irish can get the early win, they’ll likely match up against Philadelphia in the third round.
Sun Herald Baseball Top 10
1. Gulfport (30)
2. West Harrison (27)
3. Ocean Springs (24)
4. George County (18)
5. Long Beach (17)
6. Vancleave (14)
T7. Pearl River Central (12)
T7. Biloxi (12)
9. St. Stanislaus (8)
10. St. Martin (3)
Sun Herald Softball Top 10
1. Harrison Central (30)
2. St. Patrick (27)
3. Ocean Springs (24)
4. East Central (21)
5. Pearl River Central (16)
6. Picayune (15)
T7. George County (10)
T7. West Harrison (10)
9. Pass Christian (9)
10. Gulfport (2)
Dropped out: Poplarville (1; 13-8; 1)