Neshoba Central showed why the Lady Rockets have won four straight MHSAA 5A championships Thursday. Similarly, sophomore Aspen Wesley showed why she has been one of the state’s best pitchers since first stepping into the circle as a seventh -grader.
Wesley allowed one hit, struck out nine and walked one in a 3-0 win over Picayune in the opening game of the state championship series.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, weather permitting.
Facing the possibility of seeing Wesley again, Picayune coach Kristi Mitchell said: “We have to put the ball in play, hit the ball hard and give ourselves a chance. We probably will have to manufacture some runs. She’s a good pitcher, no doubt about it. We are going to have to find a way to put the bat on it.”
Picayune pitcher Megan Dudenhefer allowed four hits, fanned nine and walked one. She started off the game by striking out the side on 11 pitches.
Madelyn Thompson led off the second for Neshoba (29-3) by lining a homer over the left-field fence. It was her first home run of the season.
A double by Hannah Hall and singles by Tenly Grisham and McKenley Barnett produced two Neshoba runs in the sixth.
Wesley retired the first 12 batters before Elizabeth Taggard led off the fifth with a line single to left for Picayune (22-9-1).
Despite the shutout, Wesley said she was not at her best. “Really, my pitches weren’t working like they usually do,” she said, attributing it to a blister on her pitching hand.
Neshoba coach Trae Emby wasn’t surprised by the score.
“They (Picayune) have an outstanding pitcher so we knew coming in it would be a low-scoring game,” he said.
Neither coach would say who will pitch in Game 2.
“We’ll see,” Mitchell said.
Embry smiled and said, “What would you do?”