HATTIESBURG — Taylorsville needed a dramatic shift in momentum to force Game 3 of the MHSAA Class 1A championship. The Tartars trailed 4-1 through five innings in Thursday’s Game 2 matchup against Vardaman. Rams pitcher Makynlie Jones was dealing until Taylorsville found new life in the sixth.
The Tartars — led by a two-RBI single from senior Latia Keyes — rattled off six hits to take a 7-4 victory at the Southern Miss Softball Complex. Less than 24 hours later, Taylorsville’s bats stayed hot in a series-clinching 9-5 victory over Vardaman.
“We could have given up when we were down 4-1 and just quit,” Coach Adam Evans said. “We didn’t and we strung together a couple (hits). At some point we had to string together a couple hits because we weren’t striking out.
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“You keep putting the ball in play, you are eventually going to find some holes and that’s what we did in the sixth inning yesterday. That led into today. A belief at the plate.”
Taylorsville got started in the second after sophomore Tinli Phillips was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Senior Kylee Beth Moore continued the damage with a two-RBI single up the middle followed by a two-RBI double from pitcher Emma Rankin. The senior’s shot to left-center was inches away from the top of the wall for a home run.
“It just took a lot of pressure off of everybody,” Rankin said about the second inning. “We were really nervous at first but we got what we wanted.”
Jones faced 10 batters and gave up six runs in the second, a nearly identical offensive explosion from Thursday night.
“They found their rhythm and we just couldn’t do anything to break it there for a little while,” Vardaman coach Josh Hegwood said. “It settled down toward the end but our Achilles heel all year has been a big inning here and there. It finally caught up with us in the last two games.”
Rankin finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs in Game 3. She was also dominant in the circle. Rankin held Vardaman to eight hits and five runs with three strikeouts. Emma pitched in all three games of the championships
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Vardaman answered in the fifth inning with RBI singles from Junior Madison Terrell and freshman Addison Lucius. Lucius added another RBI in the seventh before Rankin struck out Amry Logan to clinch Taylorsville’s first state championship since 2019.
“She’s got a lot of fight, a lot of competitiveness and she wants to win every time,” Evans said. “That showed over the last three days. It’s been hot. We played in 90 degree weather all three games and (Rankin) pitched every pitch. She competed her tail off and had some really good at-bats.”