High School Sports

How sweep it is: Harrison Central claims another 6A South state title

LYMAN - Winning hasn't grown stale for Harrison Central.

Once the final out was recorded in Saturday's Class 6A South State sweep of St. Martin, the Red Rebelettes celebrated like it was their first title, rushing the field, breaking into an impromptu mosh pit over third base and later dousing long-time coach Jimmy Parker with a Gatorade shower.

Harrison Central had plenty of reason to celebrate after taking it to a talented and senior-laden St. Martin team, 9-0.

"We hit the ball hard throughout the lineup. Even some of our outs were hard-hit balls," Parker said. "And then when we needed to we were able to lay the ball down, run and use our speed. It was just a good game all the way around."

The Red Rebelettes' aggression likely made the biggest difference in the game as they took extra bases on several misplayed balls and stretched singles into doubles.

"There was a lot of hustle. Any bobble we were able to take a base," Parker said. "They have the green light to do that on their own because by the time I would tell them it's too late."

HCHS (26-4) took a 1-0 lead in the first when Madison Burge hit a hard grounder to second. Simone McKinney sprinted home from third base on contact and beat a wayward throw.

After Kayla Cade's double in the second, Daijah Richardson drove home courtesy runner Ashley Terwilliger with a double of her own.

"We wanted to get ahead of them right away," Parker said. "We were able to get them on their heels to where they had to battle back and it worked. We noticed them in about the fourth inning looking a little down. When you're seniors and you know time is running out, I can understand where that's coming from."

HCHS pushed its lead to 5-0 in the fourth on an RBI-single by Desirea Lindsey and a two-run single by Burge.

The Red Rebelettes tacked on another four runs in the fifth inning on singles by Jhericka Strickland, Lindsey and Burge, and a triple by Richardson.

"It's always hard when you're playing from behind at this point in the year," St. Martin coach Donna Swilley said. "There's so much emotion with so many seniors. They're the two-time defending state champions. If you get down to them it's really hard to dig yourself out of it."

Dominant pitching

In addition to Harrison Central's dialed in pitching, Kristen Cade tossed a two-hit gem, striking out 10.

Everything was working," Cade said. "I just had to do what I had to do."

Added Parker, who noted Cade has thrown consecutive two-hitters: "She makes my life easy."

Final At bat for Gruich

In an ultimate show of respect, South Alabama signee Katelyn Gruich was intentionally walked five consecutive times in the series. She was given the free base three times Friday and then twice more Saturday.

"A lot of people don't understand: I can't let Katelyn Gruich beat me," Parker said. "Katelyn Gruich can beat you with one swing of the bat. She did that last week to another team. I think the world of the kid."

Walking to the plate for her final high school plate appearance in the sixth inning, and with HCHS leading St. Martin (17-9) by nine runs, Parker opted to let Gruich hit. The slugger, overcome by the moment, had to call timeout to wipe tears from her face as the realization sunk in.

The scene wasn't lost on the fans, who stood and applauded Gruich as she stepped into the batter's box one final time before striking out.

"She has such a bright future ahead of her," Swilley said. "Gosh, the standards she set for this program are amazing. She set the bar so high in so many ways. Not just as a player but as a kid. She's all heart."

Next up

With South State behind them, the Red Rebelettes will turn their attention to South Panola, which swept Southaven to advance to the Class 6A title series.

Having won two straight championships isn't enough, Parker said. The Red Rebelettes want three.

"There has only been one team in 6A to ever win three in a row. That's our goal," he said. "Madison Central did it and we want to match that."

The title series will begin Thursday in Ridgeland.

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