STARKVILLE — For the first time in school history, Booneville is the King – make that Queen – of the softball diamond.
And apparently it takes some time to sink in.
“It really hasn’t had time to sink in and absorb yet,” said Lady Blue Devils Head Coach Jessica Taylor.
Booneville completed a two game sweep in the best-of three MHSAA 3A state championship series Thursday evening against Raleigh, overwhelming the south half champion Lady Lions 6-1 at Nusz Field in Starkville. Taylor’s squad earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory in game one on Wednesday to gain the upper hand.
In the championship game, eighth-grader Olivia Garrett almost single-handedly took care of Raleigh on her own. She went 4-4 at the plate with four RBI, two runs scored and seven total bases. Four of those bases came when she belted a three-run first inning home run off Lady Lions ace Holly Craft.
“Olivia is just so humble and selfless an always puts the team first,” said Taylor. “She is also my number two pitcher. She is such a fierce competitor, especially for someone her age. Her will to win is incredible and infectious to her teammates.”
Booneville had trouble reaching base against Craft in game one, scoring just one run on two hits. However, it was a different story Thursday as the Lady Blue Devils scored six runs on 11 hits, although the Lady Lions hurler did strike out 14 BHS batters.
Sophomore Hallie Burns had another strong game, both on the mound and at the plate. She pitched a complete-game seven-hitter, scattering seven hits while allowing only one earned run – that coming in the bottom half of the final inning with Raleigh desperate to score some runs with hopes of somehow catching up and tying the game. The Lady Lions managed three hits in the frame but Burns got the final RHS batter to pop out to centerfielder Caroline Thompson, igniting the on-field celebration by the blue-and-gold clad players and coaches.
“Our kids have just refused to lose,” Taylor said. “They’ve literally had that mindset all year. When we lost to Kossuth back in March (the Lady Devils fourth and final loss of the season) that was probably the best thing that could have happened to us at the time because it served as a wake up call. It let us know we need to be the aggressor and have the mind set that we are going to win every single game. They made their minds up early that’s the road we were gonna take and followed through on it.”
Aside from the six combined hits from Garrett and Burns, Booneville’s remaining five hits were recorded by five different players including Thompson, Jourdan Mathis, Hannah Davis, Mary Houston Ivy and Alyssa Rich.
“Our team has pushed and pushed and pushed some more this year,” Taylor continued. “I have six seniors that have been with me since their middle school days and they have been the driving force behind our success as well as leaders and examples for our younger players.”
With her ace having already thrown 85 pitches in game one, the Lady Blue Devils coach didn’t think twice about putting Burns back on the hill for game two.
“I had no doubt Hallie could come in and pitch again. She’s such a strong player with a lot of endurance for her age. She pitched another really good game for us tonight,” Taylor said.
The Booneville coach added, “Sometimes a team loses track of the ultimate goal. When you grind and grind all season it’s easy to do but to their credit our team never lost perspective. Despite all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears, they never lost sight of their ultimate goal.”
“And tonight they achieved it.”
Taylor closed by saying, “We couldn’t have done any of this without the support of our fans, our administration and the entire Booneville community. I feel really good about the future of our program and we will have the goal of winning another state title next spring.”
Booneville ends the finest season in school history with a record of 30-4, a share of the Division 1-3A title, North Half champions and as Class 3A State Champions.