HAMILTON - One of their own did Hatley in on Saturday. Former Lady Tiger Miranda McCormick hit a 2-1 pitch through the middle of the infield to tie Game 2 of the MHSAA Class 2A North State final at 5-all.
Two batters and two runs later, McCormick's Lady Lions had enough for a 7-6 win. They'll face Loyd Star, which defeated Enterprise 4-0 and 1-0, in Game 1 of the best-of-three state title series Friday at 6 p.m. in Ridgeland.
"I was really nervous, but I knew this was my last year, I've got to do what it takes to win," said McCormick, who transferred and sat out a year before playing the last two seasons. "She threw one in there right where I wanted it."
Hatley had host Hamilton (16-10) where it wanted in the fifth. Kelsey Wilson scored on one of three Hamilton errors to tie the game at 3-all. With two outs, Lesley Hudson's RBI single put the Lady Tigers (20-5) ahead 4-3. Mallory Ashcraft's two-out RBI single in the sixth gave Hatley a 5-3 lead.
Momentum quickly went back to Hamilton. Katie Beth Dahlem reached on a bloop single in the bottom of the sixth. Sydney Sanders and Caitlyn Atkins reached on singles to load the bases. Kelle West followed McCormick's game-tying hit with an RBI single and Shelby Savage's fielder's choice scored McCormick.
"Usually when we get ahead, we hold onto it," said Hatley coach Chris George. "(Hamilton) is a classy team, who never gives up. They got the better of us."
The Monroe County and Division 2-2A rivals split their regular season series. Hamilton lost in the state slow-pitch finals in October, but gets another shot at Freedom Ridge Park this weekend.
"To play in the state championship and win the state championship was our ultimate goal," said Hamilton head coach Jason Cobb. "That group right there (Hatley) is scrappy. They're good. All I can do is commend Coach George. He's done an outstanding job with those girls."
Hatley had to fight back from a 3-0 deficit. The Lady Tigers loaded the bases in the fourth inning. Savage walked Meagan Dabbs to put Hatley on the board and Lauren Sloan's RBI flyout pulled her team within 3-2.
"It's a disappointment. We felt like we had a chance to win both games," said George, whose team lost 4-3 on Thursday. "We obviously didn't come out with our best and didn't really start playing until the later innings in both games. We feel like we let it slip through our fingers."
Courtney Fretwell singled in the seventh for Hatley and scored on Dabbs' RBI single, but Savage got Taylor Barrett on a flyout to end the game.
McCormick, one of three Hamilton seniors, finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Dahlem was 2-for-3 with a pair of singles. Hudson (18-4) took the loss for Hatley. Savage earned the win for Hamilton.
"This was a huge game for her, a big emotional game for her," Cobb said of McCormick. "She struggled against them earlier in the year, but she had a huge series and that's what we expect out of our seniors."