Just call them back-to-back champs.
DeSoto Central grabbed the crown as queens of the MHSAA 6A fastpitch softball realm away from their latest challenger, the Brandon Lady Bulldogs, Tuesday afternoon. The Lady Jags won the state title with a come-from-behind 6-4 victory at Mississippi State University.
And what a come-from-behind effort it was. Brandon had built a 4-0 lead early in the game, but DeSoto Central exploded for six runs in the sixth inning to take the lead. Brandon couldn’t recover in the last two innings and the squad from DeSoto Central had won its second straight crown with a 2-1 conquest in the best-of-three series.
“It was an intense game and it was a great championship series,” Lady Jag coach Phyllis Hicks said. “I was proud to be on the field against Heidi (Brandon coach Hill) because I respect her so much, she’s such a great coach.”
But Hicks had equal praise for the resilience of her squad.
“I’m proud of the way my girls played,” she said. “We were down 4-0 but came back fighting, so I’m really proud of them.”
Brandon took the early lead with single runs in the first and second innings, followed by a two-run inning in the third. DeSoto Central answered with their six-run rally in the sixth inning, a performance Hicks attributed to better plate patience at bat.
“We approached the sixth inning trying to make the pitcher throw more pitches and get a deeper count,” Hicks said. “That went in our favor and we drew some walks, so patience at the plate later in the game really paid off.”
The Lady Jags finished with six hits in the game while they allowed nine to Brandon. However, the Lady Bulldogs committed five errors to DeSoto Central's two.
Haylee Alberson led the DC offense with a pair of hits and Kaitlyn Bednarek drove in a pair of runs.
Freshman Megan Vinson started in the circle pitching for DeSoto Central, but veteran Sterling James came in relief after Vinson gave up an early run in the first inning. James was able to help shut down the Brandon offense, as she struck out three in the six innings she pitched.
“Megan is very talented, but I wanted more experience in the circle as we got into the deeper innings,” Hicks noted. “Sometimes experience tops talent and I needed her (James) in the circle.”
DeSoto Central forced game three Tuesday with Monday’s 4-3 victory in game two to recover from Thursday’s 7-3 game one loss.
Hicks admitted having to go after a repeat championship is a difficult accomplishment and is now well aware it will get tougher for her program next spring.
“You have such a bullseye on you and you’ve got everyone trying to come after you, so it’s harder," said Hicks. "From this team, I’ll remember the resilience to fight through when people came at them.”
The bullseye just got a whole lot bigger. But for now, just call them back-to-back champs.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.