Drought snapped: Wesson takes game three, series

Published 7:46 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

WESSON — Cowbells rang out in Wesson as senior pitcher Mallory Sanders threw the final strike in their MHSAA 3A Softball Playoff Series against West Marion. The Cobras took game three 3-0 as Sanders finished off the West Marion batters with two strikeouts Monday night. 

Head Coach Michelle Nunnery hugged Sanders at the circle as Wesson players celebrated their victory. Last year, those same joyful players would have had their heads hung in defeat, knees bowed after a gut wrenching loss to West Marion in extra innings. 

Nunnery said the win was significant for two reasons. First, the team has not reached south state since 2013. Second, players from her 2020 squad were in attendance. COVID-19 stole that year from them. 

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“It is what I’ve been waiting on for four years,” Nunnery said after being drenched with ice cold water from a cooler. 

“The 2020 group couldn’t finish their season when COVID hit. They were here tonight supporting this team because they know how much it means to them and us,” Nunnery said after drying off. “We have been playing great together and I can’t wait to see how much further we can go.” 

Wesson was 4-1 in 2020 before the season was robbed by a pandemic. Senior catcher Julianna Wilson said her sister Catherine Wilson was a senior on that squad. Catherine was on Julianna’s mind in game three of the series against West Marion. 

“I’m playing for her. This was our year. It means so much to me to go this far,” Julianna Wilson said. “We are going to keep going.” 

It wasn’t easy though. West Marion had two base runners on with no outs in the top of the seventh. Nunnery had full faith in Sanders as she worked to get outs. A fly ball hit to junior center fielder Lilly Channell looked destined for the gap before it was hauled in. 

Sanders dialed in and found the strike zone six more times to retire the final two batters. Nunnery said she was proud of her pitcher. She was confident Sanders would get the outs needed and had put down her sunglasses so they would not get broken in the ensuing celebration. 

Julianna Wilson felt differently. 

“When there were no outs with two runners on, the nerves were in the back of my mind. There is always that thought,” Wilson said. 

She said she trusted her pitcher though. The seniors have a special bond. These games are the final games they are playing together. 

“It can be scary catching for Mal. She has power but she trusts me. I know she will make it to me and I have her back the entire time,” Wilson said. “This season means more that Mal is going to play in college and this will be it for me. It feels so good to win. We have never made it this farm and I’m so happy.” 

Wilson said the team has grown over the last four years by putting in a lot more work and practicing more. The entire team shares a special connection and trust each other. 

She added faith in God has helped the program as well. Between bible studies, prayers between innings and faith they have found peace. 

“We all trust in him. He is what has carried us. He has helped us believe in each other and we know we have no worries or anxieties,” Wilson said. No matter what, he is carrying us all the way.”  

This season is the 15th or 16th softball season of her life. She said she has played softball since she could walk. It has been a big part of her life. 

Wilson sparked a two run rally in the fifth to add insurance runs to their lead. She hit a ball into the infield and raced down the first base line to beat out the throw. The throw was not caught and she was safe at first. 

“I knew I didn’t hit it hard. I had to run it out. You can’t stop,” Wilson said. “If you keep pushing they might mess up and they will break at some point.” 

Wesson soon loaded the bases and added a second run with a perfect suicide squeeze bunt by Macy Loy. Ella Logan beat out a diving pitcher trying to make the tag for the score. Emileigh Woodson was hit by a pitch to make it 3-0. Maddie Sanders had an RBI in the first to score the first run of the game. Kenslie Carter finished the game with three hits to lead the team.

Mallory Sanders finished the game with 11 strikeouts, two walks and two hits from the circle. Out of the 109 pitches she threw, 69 were strikes. 

Wesson’s fans lined the third base side and made quite the noise during the game. The support will be needed in game 1 of the south state series, likely to be played Thursday, and game three if needed. The games will likely start at 6 p.m., Nunnery said. 

“We had awesome fan support. They know how to come out and support us when it gets to this part of the year,” Nunnery said. “We had a full house and we appreciate it.”