Harrison Central softball ecstatic following first title since 2002

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Harrison Central Red Rebelettes were not themselves Friday night in game one of the best of three 6A championship series with Madison Central.

Nearly everything went wrong en route to a disappointing 8-1 loss but the coaches settled the girls down and the team showcased two of their best games of the season for the school's first softball title since 2002.

"We tried to get them in a positive frame of mind about what they did wrong and that they did right a bunch more times than what they ever did wrong," Harrison Central head coach Jimmy Parker said. "They came out Saturday morning and we saw a different group of girls."

Senior pitcher Kaitlin Lee was the Red Rebelettes' pitcher that forced a fly out to end the game. Sophomore Simone McKinney had to sprint a long way to the ball, but Lee had all the confidence in the world that her center fielder would make the championship-clinching catch.

Lee is one of two seniors who end their high school careers with a 6A state title. She, along with Kim Gilbert, will be continuing their softball careers in college. Lee will be heading to Delta State, while Gilbert will be staying closer to home at William Carey.

"Of course I'm going to be sad because it's my last high school game but I went out with a bang," Lee said. "We went out with a state championship. The happy is overcoming the sad right now."

"We knew we had our work cut out for us after that loss on Friday night but we knew we didn't play our best at all," Gilbert said. "We made a lot of errors and we didn't step up at the plate. We knew that in order to win twice on Saturday, had to play like we had been during the season."

McKinney, junior catcher Natalie Hogue and freshman Desirea Lindsey will return to the Red Rebelettes next season and will surely help Harrison Central begin the season as favorites to make another deep playoff run in class 6A.

"In 2002 when we won it, we thought it would come again pretty quickly, but it's been a tough going," Parker said. "We've been back there three times since then. We have good competition throughout the state now."

"We just need to have confidence in ourselves and believe that we can do it," Hogue said. "All we have to do is work for it."