After losing yesterday’s game, Oak Grove coach Benjy Hornsby said his team needed to make one major adjustment after the Lady Warriors’ 2-1 loss on Thursday and that was to fix the top hand of their swing.
Oak Grove did just that as the Lady Warriors homered three times in their 4-2 win on Friday over Hernando to force a winner-take-all Game Three to decide the 6A softball state championship.
“I feel a lot better now this time than I did yesterday,” Hornsby said. “We hit better. We worked on (the top hand) this morning. When I got them out of class, we worked on it (at the Southern Miss Softball Complex). We kind of went back into our old routine. We were a little more serious today. We put the bat on the ball and did good things.”
However, the day opened, with Hernando still riding its momentum from last night as the Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Oak Grove’s starting pitcher Ryanne Hornsby walked the leadoff batter, Rylee Ester, to start the game. Ester stole second and was then driven off an RBI single from Jaclyn Carter. Two batters later, Oak Grove shortstop Mollie Kate Mitchell made an error at shortstop, which scored Carter.
The Lady Warriors managed to answer back as Bailey Bishop led the bottom of the frame off with a double. Hannah Picazo followed and drove her in with an RBI double to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The big swing of momentum occurred in the second inning as Alexis Papp, who hadn’t had a hit in 15 games, lead off the bottom of the second inning with a solo home run to right field to tie the game. Hornsby said that Papp’s big swing was key in sparking the offense.
“All day today, she has been focused,” Benjy Hornsby said. “When we we’re working soft toss, she was focused. She got a pitch she could handle, and when you are a senior and a captain, and you lead by example, it’s hard not to get fired up.”
According to Papp, she anticipated an inside pitch from Hernando’s left-handed starting pitcher, Janna Shaw.
“With this pitcher, I knew that she would be coming inside against lefties, so I knew I just had to no wait too long,” Papp said. “I knew I had to provide for my team and get on base any way that I could. I wasn’t really looking for a home run, just really a base hit. It was really excited, and I’m glad we could keep the runs coming after that.”
In the fourth inning, the Lady Warriors again started the inning with a leadoff home run from Amulina Rummell.
“I saw the ball go right down the middle, and I thought, dang, I just missed my opportunity,” Rummell said. “(Then) I hit (the next) ball, and I felt that power.
“I felt like yesterday we had our nerves working. We told ourselves that we were going to just take that L and come back today and work even harder.”
Two at-bats later, Mollie Kate Mitchell then hit a solo home run to push Oak Grove’s lead to 4-2, which ended Janna Shaw’s day as she threw just 3.1 innings and allowed four runs off seven hits.
“We worked on the (top hand) all this morning,” Hornsby said. “We got lunch, and we started focusing on the top hand. When we got here (at the stadium), I didn’t pitch to them. We just did underhand soft toss. We focused on the top hand with soft toss instead of live pitching.
“I think we hit a total of four or five home runs all seasons. We come and play on this big field and hit three in one ball game. That’s insane. I guess we were just seeing it really well today.”
Reliving Janna Shaw was right-handed sister Julia Shaw, who had earned the win on Thursday and managed to keep the Lady Warriors off the board for the rest of the night.
In the circle for Oak Grove, Hornsby gave up just seven hits and two runs despite walking four batters and striking out two.
The first pitch for Saturday will be tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the Southern Miss Softball Complex.