A state championship trophy in high school fastpitch softball now resides at 2911 Central Parkway in Southaven, returned from the University of Southern Mississippi after the DeSoto Central Lady Jags finished off a two-game sweep of Harrison Central to win the MHSAA 6A title Friday night.
This week, the baseball Jaguars look to add their own state championship hardware to the trophy case.
Thursday, DeSoto Central’s Haylee Alberson drove in a pair of runs to help spark the Lady Jags’ attack to a 4-1 victory over Harrison Central in the first of a best-of-three series at Southern Miss.
DeSoto Central scored once in the sixth to tie the game and then broke it open with three runs in the seventh inning to claim the first contest of the series.
Winning pitcher Sterling James allowed just two hits in the game-one victory and struck out eight.
James returned to the circle Friday, struck out nine and again allowed just two hits over five-plus innings in the title-clinching 3-1 victory over the Rebelettes.
DeSoto Central scored what would be the game-winning runs in the third inning for a 2-1 lead and added an insurance score in the sixth to clinch the crown.
“Sterling has played her career-best softball in the past couple of weeks of the playoffs,” Coach Phyllis Hicks said of James. “Each one, she has continued to improve through the championship game as well.”
Hicks, in her 15th year leading the DeSoto Central program, challenged her team to play championship-caliber softball in the final round and her team responded in kind.
“We made the routine plays and we made some exceptional plays,” Hicks said. “They contributed in every area. Everybody was just doing their job and that’s what it takes to win a championship.”
It is the first-ever state title for DeSoto Central in fastpitch softball.
This week, the school’s baseball team looks to add its second state championship when it opens the MHSAA 6A final series against George County, the South Half champion.
Game one of the series will be Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. with game two set for Thursday evening, again at 7 p.m. A third and deciding contest, if needed, will be played on Saturday at a time to be determined. All games in the state championship series will be at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
The Jaguars, which won the 6A crown in 2015, made the state finals with a two-game sweep of Oxford last week for the North Half championship. Thursday, DeSoto Central won 6-5 and on Friday took a 5-4 decision over the Chargers, playing in its first season as a 6A school.
Thursday, the Jaguars used a five-run second inning and one in the fifth before Oxford tried a late comeback, scoring two in the seventh when three were needed to tie the game.
Jacob Compton and Kamren James each had two hits and each drove in two runs for DeSoto Central in the Thursday win. Kyle Booker also hit safely twice for the Jaguars. James’ two hits included a home run and Compton doubled twice.
Pitcher Cade Smith earned the win in four-plus innings of work, as he struck out six.
In Friday’s series clincher, it was a four-run fourth inning that was the difference for DeSoto Central. Compton homered and drove in two runs for the Jags, Peyton Mills doubled and plated a pair of runs and Hunter French also hit safely twice in the victory.
Matthew Taylor was the winning pitcher with a complete-game performance. Taylor fanned 13 Oxford batters over seven innings on the mound.
CHIEFS ADVANCE TO MAIS STATE FINALS: Magnolia Heights starts play in the MAIS AAAA-Division 2 state baseball finals this week against Hartfield Academy.
The Chiefs, which won its state semi-final series in three games against Lamar School, opens the final series, a best-of-three set, Tuesday at Hartfield Academy.
Magnolia Heights took game one last Tuesday against Lamar School 14-4 in five innings, but Lamar came back to tie the series with a 6-5 win at Senatobia on Thursday. In the second game of what became a Thursday doubleheader, the Chiefs claimed its spot in the state finals with a 9-3 win.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.