Natchez races past Vicksburg, wins division

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Courtney Prentiss of Vicksburg High, right, reacts after being called safe at home plate, a call that obviously stunned Amber Smoot of Natchez. The Lady Bulldogs bounced back to beat Vicksburg, 10-3, and earn the Division 6-5A championship. (The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman)

[10/09/02]Natchez raced out to an early lead, then held off a stubborn Vicksburg High squad to win its fourth division championship in six years on Tuesday, 10-3.

Natchez needed a win over the Missy Gators to clinch the division title and host a first-round playoff series. VHS was already eliminated from postseason contention, but could have given crosstown rival Warren Central the title with a win.

Instead, Natchez (13-10, 3-1 Division 6-5A) jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the top of the second and put the game away with catcher Amber Smoot’s bases-clearing double in the top of the sixth.

Mable Green also had two hits and two RBIs for Natchez, and Toya Patterson, Tasha Davis, Dalisa Lewis, and Tracey Davis each had two hits.

Shannon Arnold went 3-for-3 with a triple for VHS (4-15, 0-4), and D.J. Hill had an RBI single.

“We won it four years in a row, then we changed districts and Warren Central won it last year. So this year we came back and won again,” Natchez coach Sue Johnson said.

Natchez will now host the Division 8-5A runnerup in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs next Tuesday, while WC will be on the road. Division 8-5A includes Harrison Central, Long Beach, and Biloxi.

“I hope it’s a good advantage. I hope our fans come out in numbers to cheer us on,” Johnson said. “We’ve never been able to make it out of the first round. I feel like if we can make it past the first round, we can win state.”

Vicksburg, meanwhile, saw its season end in disappointing fashion with another loss. Missy Gators coach Laquitta Smith said her team showed a lot of effort at times this season, but needed to work to get stronger before the next one.

“We’ve got to work on getting stronger to where we can hit the ball harder,” Smith said. “We came off a very bad game against Warren Central (a 12-2 loss on Monday), and showed a lot of effort. I think, for the most part, the whole season the effort has been there we just were not very strong.”

The Lady Dawgs looked to be in championship form early Tuesday. They used a combination of walks, errors, singles, groundouts and sacrifice flies to move runners around the bases and take a 5-0 lead. The only hit that drove in a run was Lewis’ single in the second inning.

“It was a good boost, because we have a tendency to not bounce back. It helps to keep our confidence and our spirits up,” Johnson said. “They kept that lead and it helped.”

VHS made it interesting for a while, though.

The Missy Gators scratched single runs in the second, third and fourth innings to get as close as 6-3. VHS’ effort was helped by a bad call at home plate in the third inning.

As Courtney Prentiss tried to score from first base on an error, she couldn’t slide into home because a bat was in the baseline and she appeared to be tagged out easily.

Smoot even tagged Prentiss a second time before she touched the plate, but Prentiss was still called safe to cut it to 5-2.

As Smoot stood at home plate with an astonished look on her face, coaches from both teams buried their heads in disbelief.

“I don’t know what happened,” Smith said. “She tagged her twice before she stepped on the plate.”

Natchez increased its lead to 7-3 in the fifth when first baseman Davis doubled and later scored on an error, then sealed the win and the division title in the sixth.

Green started the sixth-inning rally with a one-out single, and two walks followed a foulout to load the bases for Smoot. She blasted a ball to the fence in left field, clearing the bases and giving the Lady Dawgs an insurmountable lead.

“To me, that was the icing on the cake. I would say it was the hit of the day,” Johnson said. “It put the nail in the coffin.”