RIDGELAND – Five years ago, a group of seventh graders walked off North Pontotoc’s softball field without recording a single win.
Five years later, that same group, now seniors, walked away from their final high school game as champions.
“When I left Ripley everyone told me it was a career-ending move,” an emotional coach Shane Montgomery said after the game. “They said we couldn’t win at North, but we did. The girls deserve this and North Pontotoc deserves this. I’m just glad to be the bus driver and along for the ride.”
The Lady Vikings’ (33-2) pair of wins on Saturday over the North Pike Lady Jaguars (19-16) gave North Pontotoc their first fastpitch softball state championship in school history.
“It’s awesome,” senior centerfielder Danyel Raby said about winning the Class 4A state championship. “This is better than anything that has ever happened to me before. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s awesome to know we all made it this far together.”
In Game 2, North Pontotoc took advantage of three North Pike errors to give junior pitcher Brianna Gable a 7-0 lead after two innings of play.
Gable kept the Lady Jags’ bats quite, giving up one run on four hits in the 8-1 victory to set up the history-making Game 3.
Raby finished with a pair of singles and four stolen bases while fellow senior Meggin Nelson singled twice and stole two bases.
In Game 3, the Lady Vikings used a seven-run second to race out to an 8-0 lead, but the Lady Jags answered with four runs in the top of the third along with runs in the fifth and sixth innings to cut North’s lead to 8-6.
Senior first baseman Shanda Melton tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to give North Pontotoc a three-run edge allowing Nelson to seal the deal with her third save of season with the help of a 5-to-4-to-3 double play and the final out on a flyout to senior leftfielder Hanna Tate.
“Oh my gosh, I was thinking ‘catch it, catch it,’” said Tate. “I wasn’t really worried about it because everyday we take ground ball and fly balls so it was nothing new.”
“We’ve tried so hard this year and we’ve all earned this together,” said Melton. “I would never want to play with another team and having the rest of the seniors with me to celebrate (the championship) is fabulous.”
Raby finished with three hits including a bases loaded three-run triple while Melton added two singles to the Lady Vikings’ nine-hit total.
Gable, who celebrated her 17th birthday on Saturday, picked up the win after allowing four runs on eight hits in 42⁄3 innings.
Adam Gore/Special to the Journal