Missy Gator rally falls short

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 22, 2012

Twice, Vicksburg was left for dead Saturday in Game 2 of its Class 6A first-round playoff series against Tupelo.

After the Lady Wave zoomed to a 5-1 lead, the Missy Gators tied up the game off Sydney Bufkin’s improbable grand slam into a stiff breeze in centerfield.

The second time, in the bottom of the seventh, the Missy Gators rallied back from a 10-5 deficit. But this time, the comeback fell one key basehit short. Tupelo took the win 10-9 and the series 2-0 after winning Game 1 on Friday 3-1.

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Vicksburg coach Amanda Yocum was happy at the intensity showed by her charges. But the best news is that her entire team will return next season.

“That’s all it was, heart and hustle,” Yocum said. “We were just playing until they say ballgame. It was a complete team effort and I’m so proud of the way they finished their year.”

After two 1-2-3 innings, Tupelo got on the board first. Reagan Aldridge led off the frame with a single. After Oakes recovered to get two outs, leadoff hitter Hannah Smith singled to put runners on the corners.

Blakely Lollar, who led the Lady Waves with four RBIs, blasted a two-RBI double to open the scoring.

Errors accounted for the other two runs, putting the Missy Gators in a 5-0 hole.

But the Missy Gators refused to fold. Back-to-back errors and a single by Morgan Callender loaded the bases. Grace Bufkin drew a bases-loaded walk to set the stage for the grand slam.

“I was just hoping to hit the ball,” said Sydney Bufkin, who had never hit an over-the-fence home run. “I was just trying to get a basehit. I thought it was just right over second spot. I hit it right in the sweet spot, perfect pitch, perfect swing.”

After an error allowed the lead run to cross in the top of the fourth and Lollar’s two-RBI double in the top fifth keyed a three-run outburst to put up, the Lady Wave owned a 9-5 lead. Mollie Tidwell added an critical insurance run in the top of the sixth with an RBI single.

Vicksburg had one final rally left.

Taking advantage of some control issues by Tupelo pitcher Kiara Stepter, the Missy Gators loaded the bases with a walk, a Torey Daniels double and a dropped flyball by shortstop Aldridge. Vicky Lewis rapped a double off the fence to clear the bases and pull Vicksburg within two. Paige Bowser drove in another run with a two-out single and the chants increased in intensity in the Vicksburg dugout.

But Stepter, who earned the win in a complete-game effort, induced a flyout to left to end the game and the series.

The Missy Gators hope to take that momentum into next season.

“The past couple of games, we’ve played really well as a team,” Bufkin said. “We know how good we can be and we can start off next season where we left off. I think we’ll be way better.”