HED:Tupelo wins deciding game to down Grenada
By Kevin Cavender
The Tupelo Lady Wave softball team dug themselves a hole against Grenada on Wednesday, but then shifted into overdrive to climb out of a 4-0 hole and win a berth to the 5A state tournament in Brookhaven.
Tupelo (22-7) won the final game of their best-of-3 playoff series against Grenada 7-5 behind Kate Neely's game-tying RBI triple in the bottom of the fifth inning and go-ahead RBI from both Latanya White and Debralee Jefcoat.
The Lady Wave, which won the opening game 8-0 before dropping the second contest 7-5, will play at 7:30 p.m., Friday in Brookhaven against Clinton.
"I challenged my kids and asked them if I had 10 players who really cared," Lady Wave coach Ken Smith said. "We talked about not flinching and working together, but it really just boiled down to making the routine plays."
Grenada seemed to have the upper hand going into the middle innings of the third game having won the second contest easily leading 4-0.
But that was before Smith's challenge. The Lady Wave launched their comeback in the bottom of the third, trailing 4-0 when Heather Wilemon slammed a homer to center field that scored Carla Smith and cut the Lady Tigers' lead in half.
Tupelo added another run in the fourth before the pivotal three-run fifth when Wilemon doubled and Neely came through with her triple.
"The pitch was right in there and I was ready for it," said Neely, who was 1-for-3 in the nightcap. "It's awesome to be going to the state tournament. I love it."
Tupelo looked as though it would walk through the Lady Tigers after breaking the first game open with a nine-hit, six-run sixth inning. Seven straight Lady Wave batters reached base that inning, including Latanya White with a two-run single.
Jennifer Pruitt, Shea Stanford, Emily Nail and White all had multiple-hit games in the opener.
"It feels good to get to the state tournament, since I'm a freshman," said White. "I just tried to keep my confidence the whole night. Everyone kept telling me that I was leaning my shoulder in at the plate and to straighten up."
White put that advice to good use in the second game, nailing a solo homer to right field in the top of the third, although the Lady Wave already trailed 6-2. Grenada's Jennifer White blasted a three-run triple to put the Lady Tigers in front.
Carla Smith, Jeffcoat and Maria Fernandez all had run-scoring singles for the Lady Wave in the second game. Jefcoat pitched all three games for Tupelo.
"Timely hits are a big part of winning and we finally did that tonight," said Smith, who leads the Lady Wave to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons. "It was a team effort and coach Jacque Purvis did a great job of setting up the defense."