RIDGELAND, Miss (WTOK) - The 31st iteration of the MHSAA slow pitch softball state championships concluded Saturday afternoon in Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
Neshoba Central capped a 30-1 record with their seventh consecutive state championship after sweeping Wayne County 16-11 and 16-0 in the Class III division. The Lady Rockets’ roster includes mostly underclassman and just two seniors, however, head coach Trae Embry said that despite the youth on his team, his team has played well and had good leadership.
“This team has played well all year long and they’ve gelled all year kinda like a family to us and Hallie and Tori really took the reigns as far as leaders for us and they just made sure everyone stayed grounded and stayed focused,” Embry said.
Having won the title since 2012, each player on the roster only has ever had the experience of winning at the state championship level. However, the players stated that the thrill of winning never subsides and for seniors Tori Henderson and Hallie Billie, this title was unique.
“It’s special to me because I’m a senior so this was my last slow pitch season game…but it’s just really special and I’m just really excited,” Henderson said.
Like Neshoba Central, Newton County, competing in Class II, was also attempting to defend their previous consecutive state titles Saturday (five). The Cougars gave up an 8-3 lead in game one to opponent South Pontotoc before falling 12-11. In game two, Newton County shut out South Pontotoc 15-0 to force a decisive game three. Ultimately, the South Pontotoc Cougars defeated Newton County 11-7 in game three to win their first ever state championship in slow pitch.
Newton County head Coach, Justin Chaney, described his season – which included a 31-4 record heading into the championship series – as successful but one that also consisted of highs and lows. He comforted his players by teaching his team how to handle failure and that they’d grow from the experience.
“I told them I loved them because I love the way they fought and I’d take ‘em with me again and we do the same thing again so you know – that’s – they know that. It’s – we’ll be better for it,” Chaney said he told his players. “It’s a great series, you know, tip your hat to them and again hats off to them.”
Both coaches will begin preparations for the fast pitch season in the coming weeks.
East Union defeated Eupora for the Class I slow pitch state championship.