By Datti Jinkiri
Regardless of sport, the best players are at their finest in the biggest moments. The Mississippi College Lady Choctaws will have the opportunity to be just that at the GSC Softball Championship this week. The Lady Choctaws clinched the six-seed this past weekend and will play third-seeded University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Chargers today in the opening round of tournament.
The Lady Choctaws finished the season on a two-game winning streak. They defeated West Georgia 10-4 and 2-1 on Senior Day, with pitcher Avery Barnett (9-5 record, 3.64 ERA) winning both games in the circle. In the first game, outfielders Paige Hulin and Gracie Trahan drove in a combined three runs in an eight-run third inning. Both players finished with a team-high two RBIs in the game.
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Lady Choctaws edged West Georgia in a walk-off, nine-inning win. Hulin, who was playing the final regular season home game of her career, singled into center field to bring home Trahan for the winning run.
Season Series vs. UAH
The Lady Choctaws completed a three-game sweep of the 13th-ranked Chargers on the weekend of March 13th. Pitcher Avery Sanders won two games in the circle and was honored with the first of her two GSC Pitcher of the Week awards this season. She threw 16.0 innings, gave up seven hits, and compiled 18 strikeouts. The Lady Choctaws used the sweep to propel them to a run where they won 12 of 13 games.
Lady Choctaws’ All-GSC Honorees
Catcher McCall Lee and outfielder Rayne Minor garnered All-GSC selections. Lee was named to the First Team, while Minor was named to the Second Team.
Lee, a Brandon native, had a stellar freshman season. She had a .370 batting average with 44 hits (11th in GSC) and 33 RBIs (11th in GSC). She also was fifth in the conference with 10 doubles. Defensively, she had a .995 fielding percentage (6th in GSC) and led the conference by throwing out 17 potential base stealers.
Minor hit .318 at the dish, tallied 42 hits, and scored 27 runs. The speedster from Denham Springs, Louisiana finished the season with 27 stolen bases, which is the second-highest number of stolen bases in the GSC this season. In the seventh inning of a late-season win over West Alabama, she notably made a spectacular catch at the fence to preserve the Lady Choctaws’ lead.
Mississippi College was not ranked in the final NCAA South Region rankings, meaning the team likely would have to win the GSC Softball Championship to advance to the NCAA Tournament. They would have to go through multiple ranked teams to do so. Auburn Montgomery (#4), Valdosta State (#8), UAH (#14), and West Florida (#19) each were ranked in the latest NFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll.
The Lady Choctaws will play UAH at 10:00 a.m. today. The venue for the game will be Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Alabama. The game will be televised by FloSports, and links for the broadcast as well as the live stats can be found on gscsports.org.
The GSC Softball Championship is a double-elimination tournament. If the Lady Choctaws defeat UAH, they will play the winner of the Valdosta State-Lee game at 6:00 p.m. tonight. However, if they lose, they will face the loser of the same matchup in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m.