Rebuilding Lady Bulldogs lock up playoff spot with win over VHS

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Cacey Champlin and the Natchez High Lady Bulldogs finally have something to smile about, and it’s not the playoff berth they locked up Tuesday night.

Everyone is finally playing as a team.

It sounds minor, but to this bunch it’s been a hurdle that’s loomed large ever since the departure of last year’s senior class. The Lady Bulldogs have only three seniors this fall, a handful of returning starters who had to make the transition from being in the shadows to being leaders.

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They may have the hang of it now. The Lady Bulldogs downed Vicksburg 15-5 in six innings to lock up the runner-up spot in the division.

&uot;The last couple of games have been really, really hard, and our team hasn’t been unified,&uot; said Champlin, a sophomore. &uot;We’re starting to come together more, and we’re starting to become a team. Our outfield is getting a lot better. There are only a few of us out from last year. We’ve come a lot farther, but we still have a lot of improvement to do.&uot;

No one will deny that fact, but right now the Lady Bulldogs may have found a staring point. The two losses last week were hard to take, including a 14-0 loss to 3A Hazlehurst at home where one player walked off the team while the game was in progress.

Things even looked bleak Tuesday against a Vicksburg team that Natchez hammered 16-1 in the first meeting. The Missy Gators (0-4, 1-17) took a 5-2 lead in the fourth, but the Lady Bulldogs stormed back for the win.

&uot;The last couple of games they have looked a little bit better,&uot; NHS head coach Charlie Williams said. &uot;We’ve been going through some turmoil on this team. They just haven’t been together, but now they’re coming together a little bit more.

&uot;We play at the Brookhaven tournament Saturday, and if we can come out of that with one win, I’ll be happy. We haven’t beaten a quality team this year as far as I’m concerned.&uot;

On Tuesday, they could have easily lost another game. Vicksburg &045; struggling with youth this fall with only six players with softball experience &045; had the lead and some momentum after taking a lead.

The Missy Gators were starting to play the role of the dangerous team that’s playing for pride, but the Lady Bulldogs (2-2, 4-9) answered with a big inning in the fourth. They tacked on six in that inning, four in the fifth and three in the sixth to enact the 10-run rule.

Champlin’s single in the sixth brought home two after an error in the outfield for a 14-5 lead. Rocklyn Champlin’s infield single brought homer her younger sister to end the game.

&uot;We’re been practicing on our offense a lot,&uot; Champlin said. &uot;It’s coming together now. We miss our seniors a lot. Some of them still come out and support us, and that means a lot. Now it’s our turn. Even though I’m in 10th grade, I’m trying to step up. But to be honest, I’m not doing that much.&uot;

After the Missy Gators took that lead, the wheels came off both at the plate and in the field. Seven of their eight errors came in those last three innings, and their next two innings at the plate netted only one baserunner courtesy of a walk.

Bobi Foster, Claire Ray, Savannah Pritchard and Kelli Brewer scored on Natchez High errors in that fourth inning. No one put a ball out of the infield the last two innings.

&uot;We made some errors, and they had some fast baserunners, forcing us to make quick throws,&uot; Vicksburg head coach Cori Crutchfield said. &uot;They capitalized on our errors, and our bats just got cold. We weren’t hitting good pitches. We’ll have one or two good innings and have one or two cold innings. If we could have been a little more consistent with our bats, we could have won this ball game.&uot;

Errors were costly in that fourth for Vicksburg as 10-hole hitter Brittany Coach’s single to left turned into a grand slam that scored Christy Franklin, Whitney Brown and Jennifer Jackson thanks to two throwing errors.

Ke’Airra Jones followed that with a home run for an 8-5 lead. In the fifth two infield errors helped four runs come across for Natchez.

&uot;That was the thing &045; they were overconfident they would come back on them,&uot; Williams said. &uot;They knew they weren’t one of the top teams. You don’t get down and expect to come back on a good team. We’ve got to do a better job hitting. Defensively, we played fairly well. We’ve got three people hitting the ball, and you can’t beat a quality team with three people hitting.&uot;