Neshoba Central coach Trae Embry pondered the question in light of his team’s third straight MHSAA 5A fast-pitch championship — is this his best team?
“It’s possible,” he said. “We were consistent throughout the season.”
Consistently outstanding is what the Lady Rockets were, capping off a 31-1 season with 11-0 and 10-0 victories over West Harrison in the championship series. That earned the team the top spot in the final Clarion-Ledger rankings for the second straight year.
Embry considered a 9-2 victory over fifth-ranked Germantown, the team that handed Neshoba its only loss, 2-0, to be his team’s most important win because it gave the Lady Rockets the region championship. Neshoba also swept Germantown in the semifinals, 4-0 and 6-2.
Neshoba was led by its two All-State players — senior shortstop Hailey Lunderman and eighth-grade pitcher Aspen Wesley. Lunderman, who will be playing at Ole Miss next year, batted .611 from the leadoff spot. She hit two homers in the championship series, while playing nearly flawless ball at the most important defensive position in softball. Wesley was 18-1 with a 0.80 ERA, including a no-hitter and a two-hitter against West Harrison.
Newton County won a record eighth straight state championship and third in a row to finish second in the rankings for the second year in a row with a 31-2 record. One of the losses was a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Neshoba.
Third-ranked Harrison Central repeated as 6A champions, defeating fourth-ranked Madison Central in a three-game series for the second year in a row. Other champions are sixth-ranked Philadelphia, which won a dramatic third game against eighth-ranked Mooreville in 3A; 13th-ranked East Webster, which won for the third year in a row in 2A, being victorious in a tight three-game series with Loyd Star; and Smithville in 1A.
Final Top 15
1. Neshoba Central…31-1
2. Newton County…31-2
3. Harrison Central…28-7
4. Madison Central…29-5
7. St. Patrick…25-3-1
9. South Panola…20-7
12 St. Martin…18-9-1
13 East Webster…20-3
15. West Harrison…24-11