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Taylorsville rides another big inning to 9-5 win over Vardaman to clinch MHSAA 1A Softball Championship

It's the third state championship in Tartar program history and first since 2017

HATTIESBURG — If Taylorsville softball coach Adam Evans wasn’t a believer in momentum, he is now.

After falling in the opening game of the MHSAA 1A Softball Championship series, the Tartars rode the energy from a 7-2 Game 2 win into a 9-5 win over Vardaman to clinch the 1A Softball Championship Friday afternoon at the Southern Miss Softball Complex.

It is the third state championship in school history and first since 2017.

“I felt like we pressed a little too much in Game 1,” Evans said. “We were making base-running mistakes, and I’m not taking anything away from them, but we were hurting ourselves…. But I felt like after Game 1 if we could calm down and play our game, we could get back into the series.”

The Tartars did it with two big innings. In Game 2, its as the sixth-run sixth inning that changed the dynamic of the entire series.

In Game 3, Taylorsville got another six-run inning, and much to the relief of pitcher Emma Rankin, it came early.

The Tartars sent 10 players to the plate in the bottom of the second inning. The first run came home on a bases-loaded hit by pitch. Kylee Beth Moore followed with a two-run single, Rankin laced a two-run double in the gap in left center and Latia Keyes came through with a two-out single up the middle to score another run.

By the time Vardaman finally got off the field, they were staring down a 6-0 deficit.

“If you look at the series as a whole, those two six run-innings in Game 2 and Game 3 were the difference,” Vardaman coach Josh Hegwood said. “We knew they had an explosive lineup, and we just couldn’t ever put together our own big inning to respond.”

Vardaman started chipping away at the lead in earnest with two runs in the third inning, but Taylorsville picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the inning and two more in the fourth.

Rankin pitched all 21 innings of the series in 90-plus degree heat. In Friday’s series finale, she gave up five runs on eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts. That alone was enough for her to earn series MVP honors, but she also went 6-for-8 at the plate with three walks.

In Friday’s finale, she was 3-for-4 with two doubles.

“Our coaches really helped me out a lot by calling the right pitches,” Rankin said. “I knew they were going to get some hits after facing them for the third game in a row and going through the lineup multiple times. It was really hard, but we did it.”

Rankin had plenty of support from the rest of the Taylorsville lineup. The Tartars (25-7) pounded out 14 hits Friday off of Vardaman starter Makynlie Jones, who also pitched all three games.

Moore, Keyes, Kelsi Matthews, Madelyn Chennault, and Katelyn Horn all had multiple hits for Taylorsville.

“I liked my girls one through nine,” Evans said. “(Rankin) was clutch for us all three games, hitting and pitching. Everybody came up big at one point or another in this post-season. We had good at bats, so we were able to string together some hits and score some runs.”