2024 All-County Softball: Warren Central’s Madison Pant is The Post’s softball Player of the Year

Published 4:00 am Saturday, June 8, 2024

Madison Pant wasn’t called on to do too much in her freshman season at Warren Central. Pitch a few games to give starter Abby Morgan a rest, maybe snag a few experience-building at-bats here and there.

Morgan graduated at the end of the 2023 season, though, and suddenly Pant was in the spotlight. She’d now be pitching most of the games and counted on as a key piece of the lineup.

“I definitely wanted to step up this year because of Abby Morgan leaving. I was really excited to come on varsity and be a part of this great group of players,” Pant said. “It was a lot of stress with Coach (Brian) Ellis coming on. But it ended up really well. I ended up getting better and working harder.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Not just better. The best.

Pant quickly turned into a pitching ace and a standout hitter for the Lady Vikes, with a 16-7 record, 2.48 ERA and 144 strikeouts. She batted .372 with a team-high 46 RBIs.

The combination of pitching and hitting made her an invaluable part of a talented team, and the 2024 Vicksburg Post softball Player of the Year.

“It feels awesome. I never really thought, from where I started from last year, that I could get to this point,” Pant said.

Knowing she’d be stepping into a much bigger role this season, Pant said she tried to improve all of her skills during the summer of 2023. She played in 15 games last season, but only had 20 at-bats.

“I was definitely confident about my hitting because I worked hard at it all summer,” she said. “I also worked on my pitching at travel ball and got better and got more confidence.”

After a couple of shaky outings early this spring, Pant settled in. In a span of nine games she allowed no earned runs five times and one run once.

At the plate, she was an RBI machine in the middle of the order. She drove in at least one run in 17 of the 26 games in which she played.

Pant finished with a .372 batting average that ranked second on the team. She hit two home runs and seven doubles, as well, as the Lady Vikes finished with a 23-8 record and reached the second round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.

“I told her, ‘When you’re in the circle, that’s your job today. I don’t care if you go 0-for-5.’ She did exactly that,” Warren Central coach Brian Ellis said. “The other side of that is she’d come up and she didn’t go 0-for-5. She was No. 2, I think, in batting average and led the team in RBIs.”

Pant’s best moment, however, also stemmed from one of her worst.

In the second inning of Game 3 of a first-round playoff series against Grenada, Olivia Lashley hit a hard line drive right back up the middle. It struck Pant in the head and kicked the edge of her protective mask back against her forehead. The blow caused a large welt to form above her left eye.

“It was all slow motion. It didn’t hurt as much as people were making it. Yes, it hurt. It hit me. But the people crowding around me worrying made it seem worse than it was,” Pant said. “I’m grateful that everyone came and helped me, but I knew I was OK.”

Pant left the game and went to the hospital. A CT exam showed no major damage and no concussion. A steady stream of texts and phone calls, including one from Lashley, helped lift her spirits.

“It showed how much people care,” Pant said. “I’m very grateful that everyone cared. Even the Grenada coach and the player that hit me texted me after the game just to make sure I was OK. I loved that so much.”

Warren Central outlasted Grenada 7-6 in 10 innings to win Game 3 and the series, which led to Pant’s biggest moment of the season.

Just five days after she’d lived every pitcher’s nightmare, Pant returned to the circle for Game 2 of the second-round series against South Panola.

“I knew I was going to play, in my head, but my doctor didn’t clear me until exactly Saturday. She said if I have a headache I don’t need to play, but I was feeling great that day,” Pant said.

Pant got an early test of her nerve against the Lady Tigers. The very first batter of the game, Hailey Heafner, hit a hard single up the middle, just to the right of Pant.

“When it hit right back to me the first hit of the game, I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” Pant said. “It was just flashbacks. It’s a spot in the right moment at the right time. It was an accident and I wasn’t going to let that put me down.”

Ellis said Pant’s reaction let him know she was going to be all right mentally as well as physically.

“In the first inning she had a ball hit right past her and she looked right over at me and she had this look on her face, kind of a half-grin,” Ellis said. “I just kind of laughed and stuck my arms out, and then she kind of laughed and then the rest is history.”

History, and the stuff of legends.

Pant finished with eight strikeouts in a complete-game shutout, and retired 11 batters in a row at one point as the Lady Vikes won 2-0 to keep their season alive.

“You see stuff like that in a movie,” Ellis marveled. “That was incredible. If you weren’t here to see that and you didnt know all the details behind it, that stinks because you missed something very, very amazing.”

Warren Central’s season ended two days later with a Game 3 loss to South Panola, but it hardly diminished their season, or what Pant accomplished the week before. She overcame adversity and delivered a career-defining performance on the biggest stage.

“My teammates kept me up the whole game and I was eager to help them out and get the win so the season wouldn’t end,” she said. “It was definitely memorable. I love this group of girls and I’m excited for next year.”

2024 – Madison Pant, Warren Central
2023 – Abby Morgan, Warren Central
2022 – Jenn Smith, Warren Central
2021 – Abby Morgan, Warren Central
2020 – Hannah Embry, Porters Chapel
2019 – Kelsey Lockridge, Warren Central
2018 – Kelsey Lockridge, Warren Central
2017 – Hannah Embry, Porters Chapel
2016 – Brooke Patterson, Warren Central
2015 – Darby Gain, Warren Central
2014 – Brooke Patterson, Warren Central
2013 – Megan McCullough, Warren Central
2012 – Krista Cortezie, Warren Central
2011 – Mallory McGuffee, St. Aloysius
2010 – Chasity Hearn, Warren Central
2009 – Mandy Fuller, Warren Central
2008 – Sarah Franco, St. Aloysius
2007 – Sarah Kerut, St. Aloysius
2006 – Sarah Kerut, St. Aloysius
2005 – Lauren Anderson, Warren Central
2004 – Lauren Johnson, Porters Chapel
2003 – Laura Beth Lyons, St. Aloysius
2002 – Katie Barnett, Warren Central
2001 – Katie Barnett, Warren Central
2000 – Emily Mathes, Vicksburg

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.

email author More by Ernest