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Cathedral scores four runs late to take 1st game vs. Noxapater

Cathedral High School infielder McKenzie Milligan tags out Noxapater High School base runner Kiera Phillips at second base during the game Thursday afternoon. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Cathedral High School infielder McKenzie Milligan tags out Noxapater High School base runner Kiera Phillips at second base during the game Thursday afternoon. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Mackenzie Watts was a bit unsure of herself as she stepped up to the plate Thursday evening.

Cathedral High School was trailing Noxapater High School 6-4 late in the game, making Watts’ at-bat with the bases loaded critical for her team. The Lady Green Wave didn’t want to go down 0-1 in a three-game set with the Lady Tigers, so a big hit was needed.

And despite any self-doubt, Watts laced a single that plated Claire Upton and McKenzie Milligan, tying the game 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth.

“I was really nervous,” Watts said. “I wasn’t expecting to do it. I was just so surprised and happy that we actually tied it up.”

A fielder’s choice by Mollie Devening sent home Kimble Devening in the next at-bat to give Cathedral the lead, and a single by Tori Edwards scored Watts to make it 8-6. Cathedral would go on to hold Noxapater scoreless in the top of the seventh, securing the win in Game 1 of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A first-round playoff game.

Cathedral High School infielders McKenzie Milligan, left, and Elizabeth Smith, right, congratulate teammate Abby Brown after she fielded a difficult ground ball during the game against Noxapater High School on Thursday afternoon. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Cathedral High School infielders McKenzie Milligan, left, and Elizabeth Smith, right, congratulate teammate Abby Brown after she fielded a difficult ground ball during the game against Noxapater High School on Thursday afternoon. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

“It’s really encouraging to win the first game, because it leads you on to keep winning,” Watts said afterward.

Lady Green Wave head coach Gary Blackwell said his girls were finally able to break through offensively when they needed to the most.

“We finally got people on base, and we got a hit when we needed it,” Blackwell said. “Early in the game — and in the past few games — that’s been a problem, getting hits when we needed them. Finally, we did.”

Even with the struggles early on, Blackwell said he wasn’t surprised to see his team come back and come out on top.

“This team never quits,” he said. “It was important for us going up there on Saturday (for Game 2) to know that we can come back and win.”

Cathedral scored two runs in the bottom of the first to open up with an early 2-0. A sacrifice fly by Mollie scored Kimble, and Milligan also came around on the play.

Noxapater would take its first lead of the game when it scored four runs in the top of the third. Hanna Hamilton came home on an error, and a single by Anna Claire Webb scored Treasure Lynch. Webb later scored on a wild pitch, and a fielder’s choice sent home Chelsea Moore.

In the bottom half of the frame, Milligan came home on a fielder’s choice, cutting Noxapater’s lead to 4-3. Cathedral tied it up in the fourth inning when a single by Upton drove in Caroline Kaiser.

But a two-run home run by Moore in the top of the fifth inning put the game back in the Lady Tigers’ hands at 6-4, setting up the Lady Green Wave’s comeback bid in the bottom of the sixth.

Mollie got the start for Cathedral, giving up six runs — three earned — on nine hits. She also walked one and struck out nine. Though Mollie allowed the leadoff hitter for Noxapater to reach in the top of the seventh, she retired the side to secure the win.

“I think she was doing a good job, they were just hitting the ball,” Blackwell said. “They were swinging the bats and hitting. Maybe she wasn’t hitting her spots quite as good as normal, but overall she hung tough and did a good job.”

Milligan and Watts were both 2-for-4, while Laura Ellett finished 2-for-3 for Cathedral. The Lady Green Wave (13-7) will play Game 2 of the series at 3 p.m. Saturday at Noxapater. Game 3, if neccesary, will immediately follow.

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