Mary Blair Odom hits for Madison Central.
Mary Blair Odom hits for Madison Central.
RIDGELAND - It looked to all the world Friday night like Madison Central's Lady Jaguars were about to coast to a state championship.

After all, pitcher Haylee Morse had just held Harrison Central to one run in a complete-game effort, and the Red Rebelettes had committed seven errors, and stranded 11 of their 12 base runners. They had embarrassed the South State champions, and would go for the finishing blow the next day at noon.
But boy, how quickly things changed.

Harrison Central showed up to the play Saturday, and defeated the Lady Jags 3-0 and 6-2 to steal the MHSAA 6A State Championship right from under Madison Central's nose.

"We came out up for that first game today," Madison Central coach Kayla Watkins said. "It was anyone's game through six or seven innings. We just couldn't drop balls in (for hits), but I felt like we were right there."

As Watkins said, hits were hard to come by in the series' second game Saturday. The Lady Jags (27-7) got one on Jamie Smith's fourth-inning single, and went quietly the rest of the game.

Red Rebelette pitcher Madison Burge ambushed Madison Central with a rise ball that forced a ton of fly balls.

"We weren't really ready for that rise ball," Kristen Qualls said. "It threw us off, and forced us to get under some balls we probably would have driven."

Harrison Central capitalized on the shutout by grabbing three runs in the top of the seventh inning.

A Madison Central error, sandwiched between RBI singles by Kaitlin Lee and Kim Gilbert, proved to be the difference.

In the second game, the Red Rebelettes (27-5) got started much earlier when they loaded the bases without recording an out to start the second inning.

Desirea Lindsay singled in a run, then Koshak hit a sac fly, giving Harrison Central the 2-0 lead. Because Lindsay tried to tag up on the pop fly and was thrown out at second, Harrison Central was only able to add one run on Simone McKinney's follow-up triple. Lee followed with a single, and by the time the dust settled, Harrison Central was in the driver's seat, up 4-0.

In a truly frustrating turn of events in the third inning, junior Alexia Harmon smashed a ball off of Burge to the make-shift outfield fence that looked to most everyone in attendance like a home run, but wasn't.

The ball bounced off the bottom of the fence and was in play, but nobody could get the message to Harmon. She was still in her home run trot when she was tagged out at third base.

Still, Madison Central put together a solid third inning, stranding Red Rebelettes at second and third and picking up a couple of runs of their own. Kristen Qualls smacked a single up the middle to score Shania Richardson from third base, and scored herself on a JaMya Hopson double a play later.

"When we started hitting her, we hit her hard," Qualls said. "You could tell she had gotten tired, but they switched pitchers pretty quickly."

Harrison Central went with Lee to start the fourth, and she allowed just two hits over the final four innings without issuing a walk. Senior Kim Gilbert added a home run in the fifth and Koshak knocked in Lindsay with a sacrifice fly after she led off the sixth with a triple to close out the scoring.

Afterwards, it was hard for the Lady Jags to hide their disappointment, but Watson told her team they have nothing of which to be ashamed.

"I'm really proud of this year, and particularly our seniors," Watkins said. "We've finished in the top four every year and won it twice. I told them after the game - it's not a chance that you get back here every year and it's certainly not a guarantee."

Qualls, one of eight juniors coming back next season, said the loss in the championship series is only going to make a hungry team - a team which is scheduled to lose just two seniors - even hungrier.

"We're going to miss our two seniors," she said. "But we have eight juniors coming back as seniors next year who have had a taste of this championship series. We'll be back."