By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – Corinth was introduced Friday to visiting Houston star pitcher Haley Gravat.
The senior left-hander was anything but a gracious guest, striking out eight Lady Warriors and scattering three hits in the Lady Hilltoppers’ 4-1 victory in the first game of their MHSAA Class 4A state quarterfinals best-of-three fastpitch softball series.
“Haley pitched well and kept everything under control,” Houston coach Keith Jernigan said. “She’s not overpowering, but she just moves the ball around well.
“She stays in control and lets her defense play behind her.”
Gravat (29-1) recorded all eight of her strikeouts in the first four innings. She recorded six in the first two frames.
“Opponents get used to her,” Jernigan said. “The fact that she’s a left-handed pitcher has some effect (early).”
The second game between the Hilltoppers (29-1) and Warriors (22-8) is scheduled for 2 p.m. today in Houston. A third game, if necessary, would follow.
The winner of this series plays Pontotoc or Tishomingo County next week in the state semifinals.
Corinth coach Janna LaBarreare admitted that the crafty Gravat gave her steady-hitting team some problems early on.
“We chased some bad pitches,” she said. “She likes to pitch quick and we played into their tempo. She’s a different pitcher than what we had been seeing. She likes a higher pitch.
“Once we started making adjustments, it was too late.”
Houston took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run single to right-center field by first baseman Audi Dendy off Corinth starter Stennett Smith (16-7).
The Hilltoppers gave Gravat a 4-0 cushion with Yasmeen Cooper’s two-run double in the third.
Corinth finally answered with a run in the seventh off singles by Portia Patterson and Haley Christian.