HATTIESBURG — After tallying just four hits in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Hernando in the opening game of the MHSAA 6A Championship Series, Benjy Hornsby’s Oak Grove Lady Warriors went to work.
They took batting practice at their home field about 15 minutes from the Southern Miss Softball Complex, then did more soft-toss in the cages just before the game.
Whatever they did, it worked.
The Lady Warriors pounded out 11 hits, including three home runs, in a 4-2 bounce-back win over the Lady Tigers to even the series Friday afternoon.
Game Three is set for Saturday afternoon. It will begin 30 minutes following the conclusion of the 4A Championship game between North Pike and Kosciusko, which begins at 11 a.m.
“I think we were a little more determined today than we were yesterday,” Hornsby said. “I think yesterday it was like ‘Woo, we’re going to the state championship!’ Where today we were more serious.”
And they played like it.
Hernando (34-3) picked up two runs in the first inning. Rilee Eyster walked and came around to score on Jaclyn Carter’s RBI single, and Carter followed her home two batters later when Emma Muizers reached on a fielding error.
Oak Grove (24-6) got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning when freshman Bailey Bishop and Hannah Picazo laced back-to-back doubles to left field.
They tied the game at 2-2 in the third on senior Alexis Papp’s solo home run.
The Lady Warriors got two more solo shots in the fourth from junior third baseman Amulina Rummell and sophomore shortstop Mollie Kate Mitchell to give them the 4-2 win.
After those home runs, Hernando replaced starter Jana Shaw with Game One starter Julia Shaw. She got the final eight outs without giving up any runs on four hits and a walk.
“Any time three of your 11 hits are home runs, that usually helps you win the game,” Hernando coach Nicki Whitten said. “I didn’t think we hit the ball any worse than we did yesterday, we just didn’t get them when we needed them.”
They almost did, though, right at the end after the Lady Tigers had advanced the tying run to second base with two outs. Julia Shaw launched a high drive deep to right field, but senior McKenzie Stewart created a Top 10-worthy highlight, catching the ball over her right shoulder as she raced towards the wall to to end the game.
“I was already yelling ‘Four, four, four!’ to get the ball to home plate,” Hornsby said. “My assistant told me to chill out ‘cause she had caught it. Just an incredible play.”
Ryan Hornsby got the win for Oak Grove, going all seven innings and giving up two runs (one earned) on seven hits and four walks with two strikeouts.