HATTIESBURG — The George County Lady Rebels have already enjoyed a historical season on the softball diamond.
And with one more win, the Lucedale ladies can add a championship chapter to their chronicles as well.
George County smacked Saltillo 5-1 in game one of the Class 5A state championship series here at the University of Southern Mississippi Softball Complex Wednesday afternoon. Game two is set for late Thursday afternoon.
Another win on Thursday will bring the Lady Rebels their first fast-pitch softball state championship in school history. George County moves to 29-4 with the win, and that total marks the most wins in one season in program history as well.
“It feels good to win game one, it really does.” GCHS head coach Kasey McCann said. “We hit well and ran the bases well.”
The GCHS crew didn’t seem to mind an early start in their first-ever trip to the fast-pitch title tilt, as after the squads swapped scoreless stanzas three times the Lady Rebels broke onto the scoreboard in the top of the fourth frame.
George County standout Irina Sanford, who was a finalist for the Class 5A “Miss Softball” Award in the state, delivered a timely bases-loaded double past the SHS right fielder that cleared the bases and handed the Lady Rebels a 3-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
“I was just waiting on that to happen, once we settled in,” McCann added.
Sanford’s key blow scored Gracie Magee, Jordyn Bradley and Aryana Dixon.
That marked the first of three straight innings in which GCHS would plate runs, as Grace Magee tripled to right field to drive in a run in the fifth and Natalie Jones registered an RBI-sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 5-0.
The Lady Rebels got a strong performance on the mound from Peyton Collins in the big win, as the young but skilled eighth-grader hurled a complete game and scattered just four hits in picking up the win. Collins actually tossed six stanzas of two-hit shutout action before the Lady Tigers finally broke through with a pair of doubles in the bottom of the seventh to score their lone run of the game.
Collins struck out seven in the win and walked three, moving to an impressive 18-2 in her first year of varsity action.
“Collins was just outstanding once again,” McCann concluded. “I just can’t say enough about her performance.”
The Lady Rebels banged out 12 hits in the winning attack, with the junior catcher Sidnee Beech collecting a game-high four hits including a triple. Sanford’s three RBI was a game-high in that category, while Sanford, Magee and Dixon each tallied a pair of hits apiece in the important game-one win and Bradley and Sanford had doubles while Dixon and Magee also had a triple along with Beech.
George County took advantage of the more spacious confines of the larger collegiate stadium in recording their season-high in triples in postseason play. And the performance came before a large contingent of George County fans that travled the hour or so up US Highway 98 to get to the Hub City for the game.
Game two on Thursday will start somewhere around 5 p.m., or so as it is the third game scheduled for play that begins again at Noon.