Fastpitch softball tourney receives praise from coach

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 7, 2009

All things considered, the 2009 State Fastpitch SoftballChampionships were a major success for the Mississippi High SchoolActivities Association and the City of Ridgeland. The proposal tomove all 5 classifications to a central location was questioned bysome coaches but applauded by others.

Looking at the statistics of paid attendance for the 2-daytournament and the financial benefits for Ridgeland and thesurrounding area, the MHSAA is expressing satisfaction and lookingforward to 2010.

According to MHSAA Director of Development Phyfa Eiland, 2,700folks paid to witness the event and around 3,500 were in attendanceduring the 2-day spectacle at Ridgeland’s Freedom Park.

“The facilities were very nice,” said Eiland. “We told them wewere expecting a large number of fans so they brought in extrableachers.”

Certainly, the Ridgeland Chamber of Commerce was anxious to hostthe tournament. Certainly, they too were impressed by the turnoutof devoted fans.

My wife, Laurie, rode with me to Ridgeland early Saturdaymorning for the Class 2A Loyd Star-Hamilton series. She happilydiscovered that Northpark Mall was only 3 stoplights south ofFreedom Ridge Park when you get on Highway 51.

The four fields were in great shape and each field had a coveredarea behind home plate reserved for the official scoreboardoperator plus newspaper and radio reporters.

Anticipating a blistering sun, this scribe took extraprecautions. Besides wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat andsunglasses, a bottle of sunscreen was safely tucked away, plus abottle of water in the camouflage chair bag.

It was an overcast day with a slight breeze. That meantconditions were ideal for players, fans and scribes.

Most of Saturday’s games concluded before noon. It led to amajor traffic jam that could have been handled better by local lawenforcement officials instead of volunteers. Parking was a problemfor some fans who had arrived late.

Under the former format, the state title was determined by abest-of-three series, employing the home-and-home plan. If a thirdgame was necessary, its location was determined by a coin toss.

Loyd Star coach Jan Delaughter was encouraged by the location.Directing her Lady Hornets to the championship in 2 straight winsover Hamilton also made the weekend more enjoyable.

“I was pleased with the neutral site,” said Delaughter. “They(tournament officials) did a good job with it. They were nice towork with.”

Going 31-1-1 on the season, Loyd Star’s girls have much tocelebrate. Their first fastpitch state title is an historicaccomplishment. For the record, their only loss was to NorthwestRankin, the eventual Class 5A state champion. The NWR Lady Cougarsbeat Gulfport in the title series.

In case you missed it, East Webster repeated as Class 1A statechampion for a fourth straight year, sweeping Smithville. Nettletonswept North Pike in Class 3A and East Central swept Cleveland inClass 4A, claiming a sixth state title.

Looking ahead to next year, there will be an additionalclassification in Class 6A. That means 12 teams instead of 10chasing the elusive state title. Obviously, there will have to bean adjustment in the scheduling of games.

Speaking of adjustments, Loyd Star loses four starters tograduation in catcher Haley Sones, third baseman Brittany Beeson,first baseman Brittany Wallace and centerfielder CalleyeDouglas.

Returning is Loyd Star pitcher Brooke Delaughter, along withsecond baseman Carrie Moak, shortstop Sarah Falvey, leftfielderKarah Smith, rightfielder Emily Smith and designated player NatalieKeene.

Loyd Star has lots of community support, so expectations will behigh again next season. For sure, the Lady Hornets will work hardfor a return trip to the state championships.

Congratulations to West Lincoln senior Julie Case. She was among16 student/athletes from across the state honored for theiraccomplishments in athletics and the classroom. Case playedbasketball and softball for the Lady Bears, maintaining a 4.0 gradepoint average in the classroom.

Also representing District Seven was John P. Moore III ofWilkinson County.

The 16 standouts were recipients of the Lindy CallahanScholar/Athlete Award that is sponsored by the MHSAA.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven Daily Leader, or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com