For the first time in school history, the George County Lady Rebls are headed to the Class 5A fast-pitch softball state championship finals.
Head coach Kasey McCann’s crew dethroned defending South State champ East Central in a span of four hours with a pair of wins Friday at two different venues. First, the Lady Rebels finished Thursday nights delayed game quickly in Lucedale late in the afternoon with a 7-6 win in eight innings before the two teams packed up and headed south to Hurley for game two.
George County carried over the momentum from the earlier win by jumping out to a quick 3-0 advantage after two stanzas, ad eventually extended that lead to 6-0 in the top of the fourth and cruised to the historic win.
George County heads to Hattiesburg on Wednesday at noon to take on the winner of the Neshoba Central-Saltillo matchup. The best of 3 series will take place at the USM softball complex.
The Lady Rebels and Lady Hornets, each members of Region 8-5A, split a pair of regular season games which set up the exciting postseason rematch.
Game one of the series had a little bit of everything as weather caused the game, which began on Thursday night to end on Friday afternoon. It was also the third extra inning contest between the eams in their last five meetings.
East Central struck first following a two-out error by the Lady Rebels, as Bree Phillips doubled driving in Macee Dunn with the game’s first run. George County answered right back in the bottom of the first as Irina Sanford doubled, advanced to third on an error and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. Ashton Fairley’s RBI single scored Natalie Jones and the Lady Rebels led 2-1 after one.
East Central retook the lead as Bree Philips struck again. This time with a two-out, three-run home run to left which put the Hornets up 4-2. East Central starter Breyona Tanner held the Lady Rebels in check until the bottom of the 5th when Kylie Howell’s two-out double plated a pair of runs to tie the game and Gracie Magee’s single put George County back on top.
The lead remained one until the top of the 7th when Baleigh Tullos’ two-out RBI single tied the game at 5-5. When George County failed to score in the bottom of the inning the game headed to extra innings as the rain began to fall.
Bree Phillips drove in her fifth run of the game in the 8th and East Central took a 7-6 lead. Play was delayed about 30 minutes before Ary Dixon’s one-out RBI single scored Jordyn Bradley to tie the game at 6-6. Dixon reached second base and Sanford was intentionally walked to bring Natalie Jones to the plate. The count reached 2-2 and the rain suspended play until Friday afternoon.
When play resumed Jones doubled down the third base line on the third pitch she saw, and Dixon scored the winning run. Peyton Collins went the distance for the Lady Rebels and improved to 17-2 on the season while Tanner took the complete game loss following to 12-5.
Both teams loaded up on the bus and headed to Hurley for game two. The Lady Rebels kept the momentum going as they pushed across two runs in the top of the first. Gracie Magee drew a bases-loaded walk and Addison Davis had an RBI single off East Central starter Abbie Huff.
Davis drew the start in the circle for the Lady Rebels and the freshman delivered allowing only a pair of unearned runs on five hits while striking out four.
George County added to their lead in the second, as back-to-back doubles by Natalie Jones and Ashton Fairley gave the Lady Rebels a 3-0 lead. George County extended the lead in the 4th as Sanford and Jones had back-to-back doubles and Magee had an RBI single sandwiched around a couple of Lady Hornet miscues and the lead was suddenly 6-0. East Central rallied in the bottom of the sixth stanza, when Taylor Long and Kinsey Cochran singled and with two outs and a George County throwing error got the Lady Hornets on the board. Macee Dunn’s RBI single made it 6-2 but Davis got a fly out to centerfield to end the threat. Gracie Magee’s solo home run in the seventh gave the Lady Rebels a 7-2 lead with three outs to go. Kailee Lawson led off the last chance at bat for the Lady Hornets with a single but Davis retired the next trio of ECHS batters to secure the win.
Davis improves to 4-0 on the season while Abbie Huff took the loss falling to 8-3. East Central ends the season at 26-9-1 while the Lady Rebels improve their best record in school history to 28-4.
Heading into their South State Championship series with East Central, the Lady Rebels had already put together a historically successful season as George County had set a school record for wins and now they can now add a South State Championship to their resume.