Late comeback pushes Jackets by Lady Titans
Starkville High School softball coach Lisa Spencer (left) addresses her team after the Jacket Jam was completed Saturday. (Joel Coleman/SDN)
An impressive streak nearly came to an end during the final game of the Jacket Jam softball tournament hosted by Starkville High on Saturday.
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Trailing East Oktibbeha 11-5 after three and a half innings, Starkville rallied for seven runs over the final two frames to sneak out a 12-11 win.
According to Starkville High head coach Lisa Spencer, the Lady Yellowjackets' triumph keeps SHS's softball team undefeated all-time against the Lady Titans.
"We just had to battle back," said Spencer. "That's kind of what we've been having to do as of late. I'm just proud of the team for not giving up. I told the team 'There's a little history here and we don't want to be the first (Starkville team to lose to East Oktibbeha).' I think that kind of gave us a spark."
The Lady Jackets (4-8) began their furious come-from-behind effort with a four-run fourth.
Shanell Johnson, Reonee Clark, Iyuana Clark, and Nicole Hackett all reached base and scored to close Starkville's six-run deficit down to two.
After holding the Lady Titans scoreless in the fifth, the Lady Jackets went right back on the attack in the home half of the inning.
With one out, Johnson reached on an error, Reonee Clark doubled, Iyuana Clark walked, and Hackett singled, all ahead of a Verlyncia Leonard double that clinched the walk-off win.
"(Leonard) had been struggling at the plate," said Spencer. "I think that is what she needed to build her confidence. She was very excited. I think she felt like Superwoman there for a moment."
Not lost in defeat was the effort of Class A East Oktibbeha (2-5). Though the Lady Titans won just one of their three Jacket Jam games on Saturday, East Oktibbeha was the lone team to score on Class 6A Columbus, defeated Class 2A West Lowndes, and were a mere two outs away from defeating the Class 6A Lady Jackets.
"All the schools we played against today were at least a level above us," said East Oktibbeha head coach Pam Roberts. "I feel good that we can compete against higher-level squads. I think after today we can play on the field with just about anybody."
Like Roberts, Spencer feels her team is stacked with talent. She just needs to find a way to get the Lady Jackets to display their skills on a more consistent basis, much like they did the final two innings on Saturday.
"This is probably one of the most talented groups of girls I've ever had," said Spencer. "It's just getting them to see their potential. I keep preaching passion and pride to them. They've just got to let it show, but I know it's in them."