High School Sports

Here's how Harrison Central shut down Ocean Springs to claim Class 6A softball South State

Harrison Central's Kayla Cade hits a home run in Ridgeland on May 11, 2017.
Harrison Central's Kayla Cade hits a home run in Ridgeland on May 11, 2017. Special to the Sun Herald - File

The Harrison Central softball team captured its fifth consecutive Class 6A South State title with a 2-0 win to sweep Ocean Springs in Lyman on Saturday.

The Red Rebels' first three batters were responsible for the runs. From there, the pitching and the defense made the difference the rest of the way.

Daijha Richardson led off with a single to right field. Kayla Moran outran her bunt for a base hit. Kayla Cade followed with a triple deep to right field, driving in Richardson and Moran.

"Our goal was to get up on them early and win one game," said Red Rebels coach Jimmy Parker. "I wanted to get up on them more. Their pitcher (Kylie Taylor) did a great job tonight. She kept us off balance all night. We chased after her rise ball tonight which is her bread and butter. But we got our runs early. We left a few stranded.

"Our pitching did a good job tonight. Madison Alexander hadn't gotten to pitch a whole lot this year, but she came in and gave us five strong innings," said Parker. "Then we brought in Kristen (Cade), who is our ace to finish them off. We were trying to hold Kristen in case there was a third game."

Harrison Central advances to the three-game state championship series, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Southern Miss. The Red Rebelettes will play the winner of Desoto Central-Northwest Rankin.

Alexander struck out four batters and made quick work in three of five innings, going three up and three down in the fourth and fifth innings.

"It was amazing. There were some base runners on in hard spots in the game, but we broke through it," said Alexander. "All of my pitches were really working and they all came together tonight. The change up was really working and the curve ball."

Ocean Springs had its chances early as well. With one out in the first inning, Haley Fox and Samaya James both singled and advanced to second and third on a fielder's choice on the second out. But Alexander followed that with her second strikeout of the inning for the third out.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Greyhounds had two runners in scoring position with no outs, but Kristen Cade struck out Taylor and the Red Rebels followed that with two big plays, the first making the tag on an attempt to steal home, and the second on an unbelievable wide receiver-type catch by shortstop Jhericka Strickland on a fly ball in the outfield to end the inning.

"From a coach's standpoint, I did everything I could to be aggressive on the bases to get our runners in," said Greyhounds coach Lindsay O'Brien. "We just could not get it done at the plate. Our speed did exactly what they were supposed to do. We just could not push it through.

"Our girls played great. We came further than a lot of people thought that we would. I told the girls to watch Harrison Central and watch them celebrating and remember that feeling because we go back to work on Monday. And we're going to be back in this spot next year, and next year we're going to win. And we're going to be the ones celebrating."