By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
HOUSTON – Portia Patterson knew her Corinth team’s back was against the wall Tuesday when she stepped to the plate in the seventh inning.
The Lady Warriors trailed homestanding Houston 2-1 in the first game of their MHSAA Class 4A slow-pitch softball state semifinals series.
Patterson responded in a big way when she blasted a three-run home run to lift the Lady Warriors to an eventual 6-2 victory over the Lady Hilltoppers.
“I knew I had to get the job done,” said the senior outfielder. “I didn’t know it was going to be like that.”
Corinth, which stumbled in a 12-6 loss to Houston in the second game, rallied to win the series with a 17-7 five-inning victory in the deciding third game.
The two wins clinched the Lady Warriors (26-8) a return trip to the state championship series that’s scheduled for Saturday in Ridgeland.
The opponent will be defending state champion Newton County, which swept Corinth in two games last season.
“We can get it done this time,” said a confident Patterson, whose first-inning solo homer gave Corinth its first run in the opening game. “We’re going to approach it in a whole different way.”
Piling up hits
Corinth collected 21 hits in the third game. Two of those were solo home runs in the fifth inning by Stennett Smith and Rebekah Kramer that proved to be the game-clinchers.
“These girls wanted it so bad,” Corinth coach Janna LaBarreare said. “They were tested in that second game. They stood up to the challenge.”
Houston (24-10), which won the 4A fast-pitch state championship last spring, responded from its disappointing loss in the opener to rip 22 hits in the second game.
The bottom half of the Hilltoppers’ order collected 15 of those hits. Two were homers by Audi Dendy and Josie Anderson. Dendy and Taylor Lancaster both went 4-for-4 for Houston.
“Corinth’s a good, solid team,” Houston coach Keith Jernigan said. “We just couldn’t score any runs in that first game and it hurt us. We played a solid in the second game.”