Oak Grove coach Benjy Hornsby said it best, ‘It didn’t go our way’ as the Lady Warriors lost 4-0 in the 6A state championship to Hernando on Saturday at the Southern Miss Softball Complex.
Oak Grove’s offense struggled to pull hits together as the Lady Warriors mustered just two on the day while having just one runner reach scoring position the entire game.
“It’s hard to win a ball game that way,” Hornsby said.
Oak Grove only created just two opportunities to score, which each inning-ending in Hernando’s favor. In the first inning, Oak Grove loaded the bases with two outs, struck out to end the threat.
Then in the sixth, which was the only inning Oak Grove’s leadoff runner reached base, the Lady Warriors hit into a double play.
Keeping Oak Grove off the board was Hernando’s Julia Shaw, who for the third game in a row, caused headaches for the Lady Warriors. Shaw, who threw a complete game, induced 13 flyouts and struck out three batters while walking just two.
“Julia was spinning the ball well, got us outs and some strikeouts too,” Hernando coach Nicki Whitten said. “She’s been doing great out there. We knew that we were going to have to rely on her today, and she killed it.”
The Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning as their leadoff hitter reached base on an error to start the game, with Hernando quickly capitalizing with an RBI single.
Oak Grove’s starting pitcher Ryanne Hornsby held the game to 1-0 for the next four innings.
“Oak Grove has a great pitcher,” Whitten said. “She has some velocity, spins it well, but seeing her three times may have been the advantage. But I feel like we got the timely hit we needed a couple of times. They have a great pitcher.”
Hernando’s lineup finally found consistency against Hornsby as the Tigers put up five of their 10 in the last two innings of the game. Shaw extended the lead 2-0 with a one-out RBI single in the sixth, but the final blow came from a two-run RBI single in the top of the seventh inning.
Despite Hernando coming up with 10 hits, Hornsby, who had Oak Grove’s only two hits, kept the Tigers at bay for the entire series. The junior pitched all 21 innings and held a Hernando offense that had been averaging 7.7 runs per game to eight total runs in three games.
“She has held them in check and pitched real well in all three games,” Hornsby said. “I knew I could go to her. This is by far not the most she has pitched in a weekend. There again, we have nine people out there and nine people in the lineup. We have to get hits. It doesn’t ‘matter what they score if we don’t score.”
While the end of the series was not how Oak Grove had hoped, the Lady Warriors had a memorable 2021 season. Oak Grove finished the year with a 23-7 mark, were undefeated region champs, and made their first state championship since 2013, especially for a team that graduates three seniors.
“I’ve been coaching for 22 years and have never had the opportunity to coach in the state championship,” Hornsby said. “We have all kinds of ups and very few downs this season. I attribute that to girls for how hard they have worked.
“I hope this makes them hungry with losing three starters and most of them coming back and Ryanne coming back to the circle. I know our district is going to be a little tough next year with Brandon and Petal. I hope they are hungry and try for it again next year.”