High School Sports

St. Patrick falls short in 3A South State Finals

 Anna D'Aquilla, St. Patrick
ST. PATRICK HIGH SCHOOL Anna D'Aquilla, St. Patrick

BILOXI -- Eighth-grader Nia Luckett scattered four hits as Philadelphia shutout St. Patrick 3-0 Saturday to win the 3A South State title.

The Lady Tornadoes (24-4) go for their second straight state crown next week.

The Tornadoes (24-4) won the opener 7-6 in Philadelphia Friday. Behind Anna D'Aquilla, who threw a three-hitter and drove in three runs on two hits, the Lady Irish won Game 2 11-1.

However, Luckett shut down the Irish, allowing only two runners to reach third base on her in the nightcap. Still, in the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Irish (29-4) had a chance, loaded the bases against Luckett on two walks and an error with only one out.

Luckett calmed down and got Anna Grace Castanedo to ground hard back to the circle. Luckett went to home for the first out and Tornadoes catcher Jada White quickly made the pivot to first for the game- and series-ending double play.

"We didn't get the hit," said St. Patrick coach Tommy Castanedo. "Whenever you have those opportunities, you have to execute. (Luckett) kept the ball down and got the double play."

The double play was one of five defensive plays Luckett started, including snagging Raven Blackwell's hard liner back to the circle to start the game.

"Luckett is one of the most athletic pitchers we've faced in the circles," Castanedo said. "She made several defensive plays that other pitchers would not have been able to make."

In the second game, Philadelphia got its offense from Precious Sanders. Sanders hit a two-out solo homerun in the second inning to stake the Tornadoes to an early 1-0 lead.

"I knew it was gone," Sanders said. "It felt good off the bat."

However, her biggest hit may have come off an attempted sacrifice. With one out in the sixth and runners on second and third, Sanders laid down a bunt that went between the pitcher's circle and second, with the Irish second baseman moving toward the first to cover the throw off the bunt, allowing the bunt to trickle into right field.

Kamyrn Moore, running for White, and Luckett scored on the play to give the Tornadoes a 3-0 lead.

"They executed on the bunt," Castanedo said. "We knew the bunt was coming and the ball was up. They executed the bunt perfectly."

In the opener, Emma Rae Castanedo had three hits, including a double, an RBI, and a stolen base to pace the Irish at the plate. Raven Blackwell and Elizabeth Zorich also had two hits and an RBI each, with Zorich recording a double. Marissa Hanley also had a pair of RBIs for St. Patrick in the opener.

"This was an intense series and they are a very good team," Philadelphia coach Austin McNair said. "It's an accomplishment to beat them here."