Pant’s inspirational return, dominant performance leads Warren Central past South Panola in Game 2

Published 10:36 pm Saturday, May 4, 2024

An inspirational comeback story helped Warren Central flip the script in its softball playoff series against South Panola.

Maddie Pant returned to the pitcher’s circle just four days after getting hit in the head by a line drive and threw a four-hit shutout to lead Warren Central past South Panola 2-0 Saturday in Game 2 of their second-round series.

Pant finished with eight strikeouts, including four in a row spanning the fourth and fifth innings. After escaping a jam in the second inning, she retired 17 of the last 18 batters she faced.

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It was a remarkable performance after her last outing, in Game 3 of a first-round series against Grenada, ended when she was struck in the head by a comebacker. The ball left a large welt on Pant’s forehead, but she did not have a concussion and was able to return to the field Saturday.

“Honestly, it was just a lot of rest,” Pant said of her quick recovery. “Coach Ellis is so supportive. He really just got me through. I’m grateful that I got to come back and help us win.”

In addition to her pitching, Pant played a pivotal role at the plate.

The Lady Vikes scored both runs in the second inning after a single from Pant put courtesy runner Whitley Parks on base. Three batters later, and with the bases loaded, Tyra Bridges drove Whitley in with a fielder’s choice to give Warren Central the lead.

Later in the inning, KeKe McKay scored on a passed ball to put the Lady Vikes ahead 2-0. Pant settled in after that — she gave up three of South Panola’s four hits in the first two innings — and the Lady Vikes were rolling.

Pant’s hit was one of only two that Warren Central had in the game. A single by Adalyn Anderson, also in the second inning, was the other. South Panola pitchers Sadie Bright and Grady Beck Wilson combined for 10 strikeouts.

Game 3 is Monday at 5 p.m. at South Panola. The winner will advance to face Neshoba Central for the Class 6A North State championship later in the week.

South Panola won Game 1 on Thursday, 10-0, but the Lady Vikes showed Saturday they won’t be that easy an out.

“What’s done is done. It was over. If we sit there and dwell on it we’re not going to be in the game today. I told them let’s come and be ready to play, and they did,” Warren Central coach Brian Ellis said. “They’re No. 2 in the state. We just proved we’re just as good as them, and today we were better than them. We found a way to score the two runs, and played defense, and with Maddie pitching they had fun.”