By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
RIDGELAND – Smithville’s Meagan Whitehead threw nearly 200 pitches on Saturday, but had just four strikeouts.
It didn’t matter. The only number that counted in Whitehead’s book was a two, as in two victories for the Lady Seminoles – 2-0, 7-2 – against Natchez Cathedral to claim the MHSAA Class 1A state championship in fastpitch softball.
“I can’t say enough about Meagan Whitehead,” Smithville coach Jeremy Duke said. “She threw 80 pitches yesterday and 200 today.
“She’s a senior. We intended to ride her today and she came through for us.”
Natchez Cathedral (22-8) put Smithville (24-10) behind the 8-ball on Friday night with a 5-2 win in the best-of-three series opener at Freedom Ridge Park.
“I told them to keep their heads up,” Duke said. “I told them we had been here before and won the first game, then lost the next two.”
The victory gave Smithville its first state title in fastpitch. The Lady Seminoles have won two slowpitch state championships under Duke, including its second one last fall.
Smithville became the first Monroe County team to win a slowpitch and fastpitch state title in the same season.
Whitehead gave up seven singles in Game 2 and recorded three of her strikeouts to help keep Smithville in the hunt.
“I kept my focus the entire time,” said Whitehead, who missed some games with hand injury. “I gave it everything I had. I just tried to hit my spots.”
The Lady Seminoles scored their two runs in the second on a wild pitch by Cathedral starter Mollie Devening and a 4-3 ground out by Lane Kennedy.
In the deciding Game 3, Cathedral took a 2-1 lead in the third inning after Smithville had scored on a single by senior Taylor Ann Boozer.
“It felt amazing to get that hit,” Boozer said. “I’ve hit OK this year, but that felt great.”
The Lady Noles took a 4-2 lead in the fourth a fielder’s choice by Kennedy, a single by Billie Claire Goode and a double by Claire McNeese.
Goode added an RBI single in Smithville’s two-run sixth and McNeese plated a run in the seventh with a ground out.
Cathedral stranded seven base runners in the final three innings – a credit to Whitehead and the Lady Noles’ defense.