Wesson offense drives Cobras past Loyd Star in softball showdown

Published 12:32 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Two of the best MHSAA softball programs in the area met up on a breezy Monday evening as the Loyd Star Hornets hosted the Wesson Cobras in a pairing that historically produces good games.

The 3A Cobras had a combined 12 hits to pace them to a 5-2 win in the first meeting of the season for the schools. Loyd Star will return the game by visiting Wesson on March 4.

The victory moves Wesson coach Michelle Nunnery’s team to 7-0 on the season. Last season the Cobras had a first round playoff bye after easily winning their region. They were put out of the 3A bracket in a close second round matchup with a West Marion squad that went on to reach the 3A championship series.

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The goal this season is for the team to make a deeper run and the victory on Monday was only the second time this year for them to win a close game as most of their victories thus far have been by wide margins.

The Cobras have a roster that’s a mix of youth and experience. They’ll rely heavily on the leadership of senior pitcher Mallory Sanders and senior catcher Julianna Wilson. Nunnery is assisted by Karla Beth White.

Nunnery started three eighth graders and one freshman on Monday and it was one of those junior high age players that got things started in the first, as eighth grader Kenslie Carter began the game with a single and then scored later in the inning to put Wesson up 1-0 on a hard-hit ball to centerfield by Wilson.

Loyd Star tied the game up in the bottom of the fourth inning when freshman Madison McKenzie scored on a fielder’s choice to first base by junior Xia Townsend.

Like Wesson, Loyd Star first year coach John Smith has a team that’s very young in some positions and very experienced in others. Smith is in his first year coaching softball at the school as he took over for longtime head coaches Scott and Denise Leggett.

The Leggett’s hung up their fungo bats after leading Loyd Star to the 2A championship series last season where the Hornets were swept by East Union.

Smith and his assistant coaching staff of Duane Burt, Kaylin Lofton and Catherine Wilson started four freshmen and an eighth-grader on Monday.

One of those freshmen starters for Loyd Star was pitcher Layla Burt. The Daily Leader All-Area MVP last season as an eighth grader, Burt struck three and walked three while giving up two earned runs on Monday.

Sanders, who’s signed to play softball next at Longwood University in Farmville, Virigina, scattered five hits on Monday and gave up one earned run while striking out six and walking three for Wesson in the pitching circle.

The top of the fifth inning ended up being the big one for Wesson and Sanders got things going with her bat, hitting a one-out double to get the Cobra offense rolling.

Her courtesy runner, Adyson Dowd, then scored from second when the younger Sanders sister, eighth grader Madelyn, hit a ball solidly up the middle to put Wesson ahead 2-1. The Cobras added to that total when Wilson and junior Emileigh Woodson hit back-to-back RBI doubles to put Wesson ahead 4-1.

An infielder, Woodson was recently tabbed for the MAC 1A/2A/3A All-Star Game for juniors that will be played in May at Jones College.

Loyd Star got one run back in the bottom of the fifth when Burt reached via an error that scored fellow freshman Maddie Kate Britt. Wesson then made the lead 5-2 when freshman outfielder Jaide Shoop hit an RBI double. Britt led the Loyd Star offense with three hits while McKenzie and Kaylin Hester had the other two hits at the plate for the Hornets.

With runners on second and third and two out in the bottom of the seventh for Loyd Star, Sanders got a groundout that wrapped up the win for the Cobras.

Mallory Sanders, Preslee Newman, Lilly Channell and Wilson all had two hits each for the Wesson offense.

“We always know that whenever we play Loyd Star, regardless of what sport it is, it’s always going to be a good game,” said Nunnery. “It was great to see how we would respond with another team that could put the ball in play. Knock on wood, I think we have a very good team all around and can’t wait to see where this season takes us.”

Wesson won’t be challenged in Region 7-3A as the Cobras play in a division with Franklin County, Port Gibson, Jefferson County and South Pike. They beat second placed Franklin County 21-1 and 15-0 in two head-to-head meetings last season.

Nunnery’s team will be back at home on March 1 to host 5A Florence. They’ll begin region play on March 19 by hosting Franklin County.

Loyd Star started the season with four straight wins over Seminary, Salem, Vicksburg and Oak Grove. Coming into the Wesson matchup, they lost a pair of tournament games over the weekend to West Marion and Stone County.

Loyd Star will be back at home on March 7 hosting West Marion. They’ll then begin Region 7-2A play with two home games against Amite County on March 8.