Sumrall fast-pitch softball coach Beronica Stringfellow wanted her team to see some good pitching on Saturday.
Instead, her Lady Bobcats saw great pitching.
Poplarville star – and Southern Miss signee – Rachel Hickman dominated, improving her season record to 23-2 after winning both games of the doubleheader against Sumrall, and upped her strikeout total to 283.
Before Saturday’s doubleheader, Hickman had 261 strikeouts, which was 7th-most in the country.
So to reiterate, Sumrall got just what it was looking for on Saturday.
“We don’t see a whole lot of that in our division,” Stringfellow said. “(Hickman) has a lot of speed and has great movement. She just throws so hard, and when you don’t see that all year long, and boom, there it is, it’s tough.”
Sumrall (17-7) earned a first-round playoff bye after claiming the Region 8-3A crown, as did Poplarville (24-2) for winning Region 8-4A. So Stringfellow and Lady Hornets coach Jonathan Ray added Saturday’s doubleheader to the schedule so their teams could sharpen their skills before starting the playoffs on Friday.
Lady Bobcats starting pitcher and leadoff hitter Shelby Perry said even though her team lost two games Saturday, it will only help them in the long run.
“Coach scheduled (Poplarville) to not only let us see good pitching, but for our defense to see good hitting and for me to see good batters,” said Perry, a Pearl River Community College signee.
Nevertheless, Hickman stole the show.
She struck out 14 in the first game and eight in the second, allowing a grand total of 7 hits and zero runs in 14 innings pitched. In the first game, only one Lady Bobcat reached third base and just one batted ball left the infield — a pop fly to left field.
Hickman, who has 486 whiffs over the past two seasons, said the secret to her success is simple.
“Just moving the ball around and hitting my spots,” the soft-spoken Hickman said. “It took a long time and a lot of practice.”
Perry said what makes Hickman so tough is the amount of movement on her pitches.
“She has a sick curveball,” she said. “One second it’s down the middle and the next it’s outside. You’ve just got to be quick.”
Hickman was also lethal at the plate on Saturday, especially in the first game where she had two hits and three RBIs.
Perry, Wren Russell and Monesha Thomas were responsible for the Lady Bobcats’ only three hits of the first game.
“We’re just working on the little things right now to get ready for the playoffs,” Ray said.