For the first time since 2013, the Harrison Central softball team knows what it feels like to come up short of a state championship.
Powered by three home runs, Tupelo topped the Red Rebelettes 7-3 on Friday to finish off a Class 6A title series sweep at Freedom Ridge Park.
Losing the title series was a first for most of the Red Rebelettes who took the field Friday, and it showed. Many of the players were overwhelmed by grief, finding it hard to breathe, as coaches and parents tried to comfort them.
There was hardly a dry eye as second-place medals were handed out to the players.
"They're great kids and they proved that over and over," Harrison Central coach Jimmy Parker. "On this trip, they proved it. They're winners.
"Wednesday night, they did a great thing for a homeless person when we stopped to eat. They left money for him in a restaurant and took up donations. I didn't know about it and they gave it to him when we went outside. I can't ask for more than that."
Tupelo sophomore pitcher Ivy Watts was the star of the day, tossing a complete game and hitting a pair of home runs.
"That kid is special," Tupelo coach Dana Rhea said. "She's a great hitter, but she's an even better competitor. She just competes.
"Ivy is big, but this team hit up and down the lineup in these two games. We've had a different hero step up all season long."
Katie Rieves also added a home run for the Golden Wave, who finished the season 26-9.
Harrison Central has four state titles in program history. Tupelo now has one.
While the three consecutive titles will be remembered for many years to come, Friday's loss will stay with the players.
"Our seniors have never experienced losing. We tried to tell them. You can tell them all day what it can feel like, but they'll never understand until it happens. Now I'm hoping my younger girls understand what happened and work hard to not let it happen again."
An RBI single by Harrison Central's Daijha Richardson tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the third. Tupelo responded for three runs in the bottom of the inning to provide all the production it would need.
The three-run third included a two-run homer by Ivy, her second of the game, and an RBI groundout by Mary Katherine Knight.
A home run by Kayla Cade in the top of the sixth cut the Tupelo lead to 5-3, but the Golden Wave responded with a two-run home run by Rieves to leave little doubt of the outcome.
"We just didn't hit the ball," Parker said. "We never adjusted. Taking nothing away from their pitcher, she did a good job. She spun it well. They played good, solid defense. They wanted it real bad. They'd never been here. They were real, real hungry. We had our chances. We left way too many people on base. We just never adjusted to the pitching."
Cade finished 2-for-4 at the plate with one RBI and one run scored for Harrison Central (29-6). Richardson was 2-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored.
Harrison Central shortstop Jhericka Strickland was slick in the field and finished 2-for-3 in the batter's box.
Junior Kristen Cade pitched 3 2/3 innings to take the loss for Harrison Central. Melina Seiferd pitched the final 2 1/3 innings.