Desoto County Sports

Northwest advances to fourth straight Region 23 softball tournament

Photo: Thenya Kennedy (seen here) and Ellie Fryar combined for four of the Rangers’ seven base hits in Wednesday’s road win at Mississippi Gulf Coast. (nwccrangers.com)

Credit: Northwest Mississippi Community College Sports Information

For the seventh time this season, Northwest sophomore pitcher¬†Neely Cooper¬†went the distance and did so when it mattered most, as the Rangers scored a 6-1 upset of Mississippi Gulf Coast in Wednesday’s NJCAA Region 23 Play-In Game.

With the win, the 10th-seeded Rangers upended seventh seed MGCCC, earning the final spot in this weekend’s NJCAA Region 23 Tournament field. Northwest will be one of four teams in the Ellisville regional, joining host Jones College, Pearl River and East Central. Copiah-Lincoln hosts the other bracket, welcoming LSU-Eunice, Hinds and Northeast.

Ellie Fryar led off the game on a strong note, blasting her fourth home run of the season to left field. The solo shot gave Northwest a 1-0 lead, only for Jorja Roberson to do the same for Mississippi Gulf Coast in the bottom of the first inning.

From there, both pitchers settled in, as the battle between Cooper and Jett Harrell kept both teams scoreless over the next three innings. However, the Rangers would break the ice in the top of the fifth, as Marleigh Mancini scored on a two-out single from Fryar, stretching the lead to 2-1.

Though MGCCC got a single with two outs in the next half inning, Roberson would ground into a fielder’s choice to end the frame. The missed opportunity only fueled Northwest more, as Crista Wilson’s two-out single in the top of the sixth scored Jada Diaz and Kara Johnson, further adding to the Rangers’ lead.

After Cooper again held the Lady Bulldogs without a run in the bottom of the sixth, Northwest tacked on insurance runs in the top of the seventh. A single from Thenya Kennedy got things started and the freshman from Madison advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Fryar. After a walk was issued to Abby RogersHanna Grace Gillean’s RBI-double to left field made it a 5-1 lead, and Kaylee Owens followed with a groundout to the shortstop, allowing Rogers to score.

Leading 6-1 with three outs left, Cooper slammed the door on the Lady Bulldogs’ season, retiring MGCCC in order and ending the game on a strikeout to A.B. Parrish.

Cooper improved to 11-12 in the circle, earning a pair of strikeouts against a single walk and four base hits. Northwest finished with seven hits at the plate, led by two apiece from Fryar and Kennedy.

Harrell took the loss for Mississippi Gulf Coast, going all seven innings, issuing three strikeouts against four walks and four earned runs. The Lady Bulldogs scattered their four hits across the lineup, with Roberson’s solo homer in the first accounting as the team’s lone extra-base hit.

Northwest improved to 27-18 with the win.