Missy Gators eye a brighter future after playoff loss to Saltillo

Published 10:08 pm Saturday, April 27, 2024

Vicksburg High’s softball team will have a full offseason to work with its new coach and a full roster returning for 2025.

That’s the promise of a brighter future, though. The present is finished.

Saltillo’s Chloe Skelton and Mackenzie Frederick hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning, and A.K. Willingham had 10 strikeouts in a complete game as the Tigers beat Vicksburg 6-3 on Saturday to finish a two-game sweep of their first-round MHSAA Class 6A playoff series.

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“I think we played some really competitive ball today,” Vicksburg coach Briana Knox said. “We had some new goals today. We came in and we had to achieve them. We had to step up. We still fought to the end, so I think we did pretty good.”

Saltillo (18-7) advanced to face Neshoba Central in the second round, while Vicksburg (6-21) will head into its first full offseason with Knox running the program. She was hired late last summer and did not have a chance to implement an offseason workout program.

That’ll change this summer. There are no seniors on the roster and Knox already has plans to get cracking on 2025.

“We’re going to have the same returners next year. We’re still bringing that same discipline and hopefully we can stay in, lock in, and go farther,” Knox said. “I’m expecting us to go way farther than this, coming back with the same team. We’ve created great chemistry.”

The Missy Gators were an underdog entering their series with Saltillo, but did not go down without a fight. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Game 1 on Friday before losing 14-4 and never went away in Game 2 despite falling behind right way.

Three batters into the game, Skelton homered over the left field wall and Frederick followed with a wind-aided solo shot that carried over the center field fence for a quick 3-0 lead for Saltillo.

“That just suddenly happened. The wind was blowing and carrying the ball right over. We couldn’t do anything about that,” Knox said.

The Missy Gators settled in, though, and stayed in the game. Makynzie Dunmore hit an RBI single in the bottom of the second inning to cut it to 3-1.

Frederick and Caroline Hamm countered with RBI singles in the fourth and fifth for Saltillo, but Vicksburg answered again in the bottom of the fifth. A two-run double by Zion Harvey trimmed the deficit to 5-3.

A bit of bad luck thwarted that rally, though. The next batter, Harmony Harris, hit a line drive to second baseman Meri Campbell Davis. Davis caught it and beat Harvey back to the bag for an inning-ending double play.

A.K. Willingham hit an RBI double for Saltillo in the sixth inning to push the lead back to 6-3, and the Missy Gators left a total of three runners on base in their last two at-bats.

Harvey finished 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs for Vicksburg. Dunmore was 2-for-3 with one RBI, and Lili Kistler had two hits.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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