Hungry Lady Bulldogs open playoffs today vs. Moss Point

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Honda Griffin is confident she’s finally got this slow-pitch softball stuff down.

A seasoned fast-pitch player while living in Kissimmee, Fla., Griffin had to adjust back to the slower version when she and her move moved back to Natchez in February. After a slow start, Griffin has become another slugger in a Natchez High lineup whose squad will host Moss Point today in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Game 1 is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the best-of-three series. Games 2 and 3 will follow.

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&uot;I only played fast-pitch in Florida,&uot; said Griffin, who spent part of her childhood living in Natchez. &uot;It was a lot like slow motion. A lot of people don’t believe it, but it took me a long time to get used to it. I was used to it coming fast. I was in a hitting slump for a while. I was hitting ground balls and just baby balls. I couldn’t hit shots.&uot;

Griffin’s arrival in the lineup was a big plus and a welcome addition to a lineup that already had significant pop returning from last year. Hitting around senior Tracy Davis in either the three or five hole, Griffin has helped spark a team that’s really starting to play perhaps its best ball of the season heading into the postseason.

The Lady Bulldogs (11-8) enter the playoffs under first-year head coach Leigh Anne Mason after posting their first playoff win in program history last year under head coach Sue Johnson.

&uot;Honda is a team player,&uot; Mason said. &uot;You put her at second, she’ll play second. You put her in the outfield, she’ll play outfield. And she’s a lively person. She makes us laugh and never lets you get down. That’s something you need on a team.&uot;

But similar to Griffin’s season, the Lady Bulldogs have come a ways hitting the ball while overcoming a skid midway through. Just two weeks ago the Lady Bulldogs found themselves in a funk hitting the ball and left the Brookhaven tournament losers of three straight.

And just like Griffin learned, when you can’t hit in slow-pitch softball, you’re going to struggle.

&uot;We’re getting good line drives and making them make errors,&uot; said shortstop Mable Green, the team’s leadoff hitter and infield anchor. &uot;Ever since we fell into a big slump, she (Mason) has been working on our offense. Our defense is fine. The offense comes through every once in a while. We could make it all the way if we keep our attitudes straight and play together as a team. We could go all the way.&uot;

Said Griffin: &uot;We had to get back focused on playing hard and hitting the ball. We did that at Vicksburg, and we’re ready to go to the playoffs, hit the ball and play excellent defense.&uot;

The Lady Bulldogs were able to bounce back from that Brookhaven tournament with a solid performance against Lawrence County before falling 11-10 in a game they could have easily won. Lawrence County may end up claiming the Class 3A title this year after leaving Natchez with a 22-3 record.

Then Natchez went on to pound Vicksburg 29-3 last week in its final regular season game.

&uot;After Brookhaven, they were down,&uot; Mason said. &uot;They were just laid back and half-doing everything. Then we had Lawrence County right there, and when they came in and said they were 22-3, that kind of built our spirits back up. Those two games they really played like they should have, and I think that really helped a lot.&uot;

It also may have been the atmosphere of everything with the postseason just a few weeks away. After all, this was a team that finally tasted success in the postseason after 13 times of falling in the first round when it knocked off Long Beach before falling to St. Martin in the second round.

A number of players are back from that team, but everyone is trying to build off last year’s success.

&uot;It’s a whole lot of us saying we’re going to go all the way,&uot; Davis said. &uot;(Last year) felt so good. People were saying at school the softball team wasn’t going to win the first round of the playoffs. They thought a bunch of girls from the streets could do anything, but we showed them.&uot;

Moss Point enters as the runner-up in from Division 7 after claiming the last three state titles &045; something the Lady Bulldogs are talking plenty about.

&uot;They’re talking about going all the way,&uot; Mason said. &uot;Tupelo beat us pretty bad (21-7) in the Meridian tournament. If we want to play Tupelo, we’ll have to go to the final game. That’s what they want to do &045; they want to see Tupelo again. I think that’s a good goal. &uot;