Almost one year ago to the day, the East Central Lady Hornets and the George County Lady Rebels squared off for the 2022 5A South State Championship. East Central swept that series winning game 1 5-4 in 10 innings and game 2 2-1 to advance to the 5A State Championship for the second consecutive year.
Thursday night in Lucedale the sequel gets started between the county neighbors. The Lady Hornets are looking for the South State 3peat while the Lady Rebels hope to advance to the state championship series for the first time in school history. East Central comes in at 26-7-1, and on an 18-game winning streak while George County enters game won with a school record 26 wins and only 4 losses. The two teams split games this season with each team winning at home. George County used a 7-run 1st inning to take the game in Lucedale 10-2 while East Central won 4-3 in 8 innings in Hurley.
East Central Head Coach Gerald Edmonson expects a tight battle, “this series should be highly competitive and come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes, these girls know each other so well and have families tied to each other.” “Most of them are friends off the field but between the lines they are going to get after each other,” says the 2nd year head coach.
Lady Rebel Head Coach Kasey McCann is excited for her 2023 team to have another shot at the Lady Hornets. “The team has had a good week of practice and looks forward to the opportunity to take on our neighbors from East Central.”
She said this season has been one for the record books and she is proud of the determination demonstrated by this team. Coach McCann is in her 7th season at the helm of the Lady Rebels.
Both teams come in with explosive offenses as each team shares the same .369 team batting average. The offensive similarities do not end there as both teams average 8.8 runs per game while the Lady Hornets depend more on the long ball with 30 home runs to only 12 for the Lady Rebels. Defensively both teams are solid with the Lady Rebels fielding percentage at .948 while the Lady Hornets stands at .929. In the circle, the Lady Rebels have a team ERA of 2.17, allowing 84 runs during the season. East Central has allowed 144 runs this year with an ERA of 3.24. Both teams have relied on multiple pitchers throughout the season but look for Breyona Tanner (12-4, 2.85 ERA) to draw the start for East Central and should match up with Peyton Collins (16-2, 1.72 ERA) for George County. Abbie Huff (8-2, 3.68 ERA) backs Tanner and picked up the series clinching win over Vancleave Tuesday night. The Lady Rebels back Collins with Gracie Magee and Addison Davis. The two have combined to go 10-2 with a 2.69 ERA.
The pitchers will face two lineups that feature 8 starters hitting over .300 on the season. East Central is led by Bree Phillips (.471, 6 HR’s, 49 RBIs), Macee Dunn (.448), Baleigh Tullos (.357, 7 HR’s, 13 2Bs) and Tanner helps her own cause hitting .413. The Lady Rebels will counter with Irina Sanford (.559, 11 2Bs, 8 3Bs), Ashton Fairley (.381, 10 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 6 HRs, 33 RBIs), Ary Dixon (.429, 11 SBs) and Sidnee Beech (.402 5 3Bs, 23 RBIs).
Game one of the series is set for 6:00 pm while game 2 is set for 6:00 pm in Hurley. Game 3, if necessary, would-be Saturday in Lucedale and the game time is TBA. The South State winner opens the 5A state championship series next Wednesday at USM at noon against the winner of the Saltillo-Neshoba Central series.
In 4A, Greene County defeated Newton County in game 3 of their series Wednesday night. The Lady Wildcats advances to the South State Championship for the first time in school history and host North Pike Thursday night at 6:00 pm in Leakesville. Game 2 will be on Friday at North Pike with game 3, if necessary, on Saturday at Greene County. In 3A. St. Patrick fell in game 3 of their series against Clarkdale and the Lady Bulldogs advanced to take on West Marion.
Elsewhere, South State Championship matchups are set in 6A and 5A while in 4A and 3A a couple of game 3’s will fill out the brackets heading into Thursday’s game 1. In 6A, it will be an all-Rankin County affair as Brandon and NW Rankin clash with the winner advancing to the State Championship to take on the winner of the Lewisburg-South Panola series. Brandon swept Hancock 4-2 and 2-1 ending the Lady Hawks season at 20 and 5. On the other side of the South State bracket, Harrison Central’s season came to an end as the Lady Red Rebels were swept by NW Rankin 3-1 and 11-1. Harrison Central ends the year with a record of 25-9. The two Division 8-6A rivals head to new classifications next year as Harrison Central moves to the new 7A classification while Hancock will be a part of the new 6A class.
In 3A, Clarkdale eliminated St. Patrick Wednesday night 9-4 in a winner take all game 3 Wednesday night in Harrison County. The Lady Irish took game 1 4-3, while the Lady Bulldogs took game 2 at home by the same score. West Marion defeated Union and await the winner. In 3A north, Booneville is taking on Kossuth.
USM is set to host the state championship series again this year. Games kick off Tuesday, May 16 at noon with game 1 of the 1A series. 2A, 3A and 4A game 1’s will follow. Wednesday’s games kick off at noon with the 5A matchup followed by the 6A game 1. The day concludes with 1A and 2A game 2’s. Thursday, May 18 sees game 2’s for 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A. If there are any game 3’s necessary, they will be played on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15 per day and can be purchased on GoFan.