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Lawrence County Lady Cougars drop title series in 2 — South State champs finish with 31 wins

Josey Nations didn’t give up an earned run in Lawrence County’s win-or-go-home game two against Kosciusko.

Unfortunately for the Lady Cougars, the unearned runs count, too. Kosciusko plated five combined earned runs in the fifth and sixth innings, and the Whippets took home the 4A state championship with a 5-2 victory over Lawrence County Friday.

“We won 31 games this year, and we didn’t do that by making eight errors in games,” Lawrence County head softball coach Meleah Howard said. “We did that by playing well on defense, and it just didn’t happen tonight.”

The Lady Cougars and Whippets played four scoreless innings with Nations dominating the Whippets throughout the first four frames, striking out four.

The Lady Cougars broke through with four base hits in the top of the fifth inning and put up two runs to jump out in front of the must-win game. The Whippets, however, scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for the first time in the contest.

“Kosciusko is a really good team, and they play really well on the defensive end,” Howard said. “They were here last year, and they know what it felt like to come up short. I told the girls coming over that Kosciusko was going to be ready to go, and they were.”

The Lady Cougars threatened in the top of the sixth inning, loading the bases with two outs, but Maddie Gilmore coaxed a line drive to end the inning and send the Whippets back to the plate.

Kosciusko would take advantage of three errors in the bottom of the sixth inning and plate two more runs to push out the 3-2 lead out to 5-2.

Lawrence County would put the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh inning, but a pop-up to the Whippets’ second baseman ended any hope for the Lady Cougars and gave Kosciusko their first state title in school history.

“I’m really proud of the girls and everything that we’ve accomplished this season,” Howard said. “We set out to get into this championship series, and we did just that, but we couldn’t win those last two games. We were so close we could taste it.”

The Lady Cougars will return two-thirds of their lineup for next season, and Howard hopes that the experience in the state championship will springboard the program back to another appearance.

“I told the younger girls that it was our goal to get back here and to win it,” Howard said.”

Lawrence County finished the season with 31 wins, the most in school history,  and won the school’s first South State championship series.

Three take-aways from

the state title series

The Lady Cougars were close to winning their first state title in school history, but they’ve turned their program into one of the premier schools in the south Mississippi softball landscape.

Experience

The state championship series is a different animal, and the teams that have experience playing in it are at a serious advantage.

Kosciusko had that experience in the series, as they fell in the state championship series last year to North Pike High School in four games.

Lawrence County wasn’t afforded that experience, and they struggled at times during the two contests against the Whippets. Lawrence County made three errors in the first game, and they made eight in the second game. It’s hard to win when you do that.

The Whippets took advantage of those errors as well, and that’s why they won the state championship.

Lawrence County head coach Meleah Howard said after the game that it was tough knowing that they didn’t play their best in the state championship game.

The Lady Cougars made 11 errors in the two games combined, and the thing about softball is that when the miscues start, it’s hard for them to stop.

Seniors

Josey Nations could not have pitched better for the Lady Cougars on Friday night. She didn’t give up an earned run in the contest.

Nations was dominant for the Lady Cougars throughout the postseason, as she threw all but one inning in the playoffs.

The Lady Cougars relied heavily on her to get to the 31 wins that they had this season. She delivered almost every time she took the mound.

The Lady Cougars had significant contributions from all their seniors this season in Ty Davis, Nations, Kaitlin Howard and Maddux Kirkland.

“Those seniors were the leaders that we needed them to be,” Howard said. “They’re really good kids, and there’s going to be three of them going to play college softball.”

The Lady Cougars’ seniors of 2017 led the school in wins over their career, and have turned around the softball program and made it into one of the better ones in South 4A.

Hitting

There’s a reason that you’re considered a success if you fail 70 percent of the time in baseball and softball.

One of the reasons is that it’s hard to hit good pitching, and the other is that if you do everything right it’s still hard to get on.

The Lady Cougars hit the ball hard all throughout Friday’s contest, but they didn’t get anything to show for it.

There’s not much you can do when balls consistently find gloves, and it just seemed like the Lady Cougars were unlucky throughout Friday’s contest.

There’s nothing you can do when that happens besides continuing to swing the bat and hoping that the luck evens out. It really didn’t throughout the contest, and it helped the Whippets win their first state title in school history.