Lady Wave set to compete for state

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 18, 2012

Cathedral High School’s Payton Monticello fields a ball during softball practice Wednesday afternoon at the Cathedral softball field. Cathedral will compete in the state championship series today and Saturday. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — In four years of coaching fastpitch, and several more coaching slowpitch, Gary Blackwell has made it into uncharted territory.

The Cathedral High School softball coach will lead his 2012 Lady Green Wave in one more series as Cathedral gets set to face Smithville High School today in Ridgeland for the MHSAA Class 1A state title.

Blackwell was quick to give credit to his players for making it this far, saying that the group has managed to form a strong bond since before the season even started.

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“It’s a big deal, especially for these girls,” Blackwell said. “This is a special group. They work hard. You don’t come along a group like this too often. I’m proud and excited for them.”

Game 1 of the three-game series is at 7 tonight. Game 2 will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, and Game 3, if necessary, will follow Game 2.

Team chemistry and a positive attitude are what define this year’s Lady Green Wave squad, Blackwell said, and he’s hoping that can carry his girls for one more set of games.

“We’re all about team,” Blackwell said. “In baseball or softball, there are nine of them out there. One can’t do it by themself.

“We started off this year talking about attitude, and they’ve had a good attitude all year. During their huddle, their chant is, ‘What’s our choice? Attitude!’”

Cathedral was able to recover from a Game 1 loss to Nanih Waiya High School in the South State championship series, beating the Lady Warriors in Games 2 and 3 Monday to make it to state. Despite facing a lose-and-go-home situation Monday, Blackwell said his team responded well to the challenge.

“If they didn’t have that attitude I talked about, they wouldn’t have done what they did,” Blackwell said. “They’re always patting each other on the back and encouraging each other.”

Cathedral will face a team it knows nothing about in Smithville, and Blackwell said his team will have to be ready just like it was on Monday.

“The Nanih Waiya coach told me we’d match up with them pretty well,” Blackwell said. “If we play like we did on Monday, I think we can match up well with anyone.”

Cathedral pitcher Mollie Devening said she’s looking forward to the experience of playing in a state championship, and it’s her teammates’ hard work that got them this far, she added.

“I never thought we’d make it here,” Devening said. “We’ve been practicing since January and February. We started workouts in November, and we’ve been out there ever since.”

Devening said despite the pressure of competing for a state championship, she’s trying to keep her approach simple.

“You have to think of it as just another game,” she said, “but we know it’s state, so we know it’s a big deal.”

Outfielder Shannon Mire said knowing you’ll get to compete for a state title is an amazing feeling, and the camaraderie she has with her teammates makes it all the more special.

“We’ve been playing with each other for a long time,” Mire said. “We’ve all grown up together, so we’re like sisters. We’ve learned to work as a team and not have attitude problems.”

Devening said the Lady Green Wave will have to be ready for anything, since they haven’t faced Smithville at all in recent history.

“We can’t underestimate them,” Blackwell said. “People say the South is stronger than the North, but we have to think of them as another Bogue Chitto or Nanih Waiya.”

But Blackwell said he doesn’t think his girls are going to get overconfident tonight.

“These girls started out in the zone at the start of the season,” Blackwell said. “We’ve playing against a lot of big schools this year, and we played them well.”