STARKVILLE — Booneville made their first appearance in the MHSAA state championship softball series a memorable one in a pitchers duel that came down to an early RBI single and a masterful pitching performance by their super sophomore hurler as they defeated Raleigh 1-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three 3A state championship at Nusz Field, home of the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Blue Devils scored the game’s lone run in the bottom of the first when Hannah Davis slapped a single up the middle, driving in Caroline Thompson from second. Thompson had reached on a hit-by-pitch and was sacrificed to second before coming around with what turned out to be the winning run.
Hallie Burns didn’t show any jitters or butterflies on the biggest 0f stages, striking out 14 and walking only one as she fired a one-hitter for the victory.
“I can see it in the girl’s eyes, how much they want this state championship,” said Booneville Coach Jessica Taylor. “Hallie was magnificent tonight and our defense did their job. We only got two hits but we made them count.”
The Lady Blue Devils take on the Lady Lions Thursday in a 5 p.m. contest that ended past deadline, a contest that could wrap up Booneville’s first state title on the softball diamond.
Game three, if necessary will be Friday at a yet-to-be-determined time. It all depends on how many game three’s are required.
“My girls have played at a high level all year and I thought from the very start of the season that we had the talent and the chemistry to make it this far,” Taylor added. “Raleigh is tough and their pitcher had a game similar to Hallie. She pitched really well. It’ll probably take another effort like the one we had tonight to win game two and take home the state championship.”
Taylor was referring to Raleigh hurler Holly Craft, who has had a superb season as well. She entered the state championship series with a 16-2 record with 187 strikeouts in 111.2 innings pitched. Outside of the first inning single and RBI, Craft allowed only one more hit while fanning Booneville batters. She also issued a pair of walks. In a side-by-side comparison of the two pitchers, Burns posted a pitch/strike ratio of 81-66 while Craft checked in with an 85-63 effort. That calculates to each hurler throwing seven strikes for every 10 pitches.
With both teams combining for a total of three hits, the contest didn’t offer many edge-of-your-seat moments other than a few defensive web gems. Raleigh committed one error while Booneville was error-free.
“We can’t wait to get back on the field and wrap this thing up and bring the title back to Booneville. This is our first time in the championship game and it would be hard to describe just how much winning a title would mean to our school and our community,” Taylor said. “Hopefully we can get it done on Thursday.”