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Vidalia finishes strong in 7-3 win against Franklin Parish

Teammates congratulate Vidalia High School base runner Katelin Temple after she scored the team's first run during the game on Friday evening in Vidalia. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Teammates congratulate Vidalia High School base runner Katelin Temple after she scored the team’s first run during the game on Friday evening in Vidalia. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

VIDALIA — Vidalia High School softball coach Gary Parnham Jr. said he was pleased with his team’s intensity in Thursday’s loss to Jena High School.

For a while Friday, he said he was wishing that intensity carried over into the Lady Vikings’ game against Franklin Parish High School.

The Lady Vikings got off to a slow start, but the bats came alive in the later innings as Vidalia came from being down 3-1 to win 7-4.

“We were just sleepwalking through this,” Parnham said. “Yesterday, we came out and brought our A game, and it looked like we brought our B or C or D game today. We just didn’t start out playing very well.”

Parnham said it took his girls time to adjust to Franklin Parish starter Kylie McMurray, who carried a no hitter into the fourth inning. But Vidalia cut a 2-0 lead in half when Katelin Temple scored on a throwing error, before giving the run back in the top of the fifth when a Kristin Kelly single scored Grace Johnston, who earlier reached on an error.

It was the bottom of the fifth inning when the Lady Vikings began their comeback bid. Mallory Wheeler started the inning by getting hit by a pitch, then Gracyn Nelson reached on an error. Leadoff hitter Cassie Gonzales had a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, and Wheeler scored on an error when Laura Perilloux hit into a fielder’s choice, making it 3-2 Franklin Parish.

Both Gonzales and Perilloux’s RBIs came on first-pitch swings, something Parnham said was an adjustment to their earlier approach.

“I’ve always told them, hitting’s not that difficult if you just see the pitch and hit the pitch, put the ball in play and roll it somewhere,” Parnham said. “We have a tendency sometimes when we’re pressing to take too many first-pitch strikes, so we just changed the approach and said, ‘Hey, we’re just going to put the ball in play somewhere.’”

Then it was time for Vidalia starting pitcher Taylor Rodgers to hit herself out of the losing column. Rodgers laced a single that sent home Nelson, tying the game at 3-3.

“I just need to put it in play and move these runs around,” Rodgers said of her mindset in that at-bat.

A sacrifice fly by Temple put the Lady Vikings ahead 4-3 heading into the top of the sixth, and Rodgers took over from there. After giving up five hits through the first five innings, Rodgers didn’t allow a baserunner in the final two frames. She said going deeper into games makes her push harder, which was the difference Friday.

“You want your team to succeed, so you’ve got that drive behind you, and they’re behind you, too, so that helps,” Rodgers said.

Three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth gave Rodgers some breathing room. Gonzales singled to score Megan Naquin, then Wheeler came around on a single by Perilloux. Temple was hit with the bases loaded, which sent home Gonzales.

Rodgers got the win, going all seven innings and giving up three runs, zero earned, on five hits. She also had six strikeouts.

“I thought she did well,” Parnham said of his starter. “The first couple of innings, we weren’t pitching ahead of the batters, but she made an adjustment and throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of the batters.”

Adrianna Wilkes scored first for Franklin Parish on a throwing error in the top of the second. Franklin Parish took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third when Johnston came home on a passed ball.

None of Rodgers’ runs were earned, and she said she trusted her teammates to make plays even after some fielding mistakes.

“I tell myself, ‘They’ll get it next time. They’ve got it. They’ve shaken it off,’ and then go along with what I’m doing,” Rodgers said.

Kylie McMurray took the loss, giving up six runs in 6 2/3 innings pitched. Kelsey Kelly pitched the final 1/3 of an inning in the sixth for Franklin Parish.

Vidalia (15-8-1, 3-5) will play at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Buckeye.