The Parklane Pioneers entered the 2020 season facing some adversity. They were trying to replace seven seniors from the year prior, they were trying to get their season jumpstarted despite the coronavirus pandemic and they knew that their opponents would give it their all to try and top the two-time defending state champions.
However, the Pioneers fought through and claimed the top prize once again.
Parklane defeated Jackson Prep 16-3 Tuesday evening to win the MAIS 5A championship series and claim its third-consecutive state title.
“I’m just really, really proud of them all,” Parklane head coach Greg Gatlin said. “We’ve been through some adversity this year with some different issues and the kids never lost their focus. I’m just really proud of their execution and making a statement early. We talked about that before the game to come out here and make a statement early and let them know that we are here to play tonight and they did that.”
That early statement came in the first inning for the Pioneers (26-3-1) courtesy of the three team captains. After Lana Johnson and Liberty Gillihan reached base, they were brought home when Meg Gatlin singled to right field.
“They (Jackson Prep) are a good team but we were obviously better,” Meg Gatlin said. “We wanted to come out and show that in the first inning and bring that mentality that we are supposed to have and set the tone early.”
Later in the inning, back-to-back bases-loaded walks were drawn by Skye Sharp and Halle Bennett yielding two more runs, making the score 4-0. The following inning, the Pioneers kept pouring it on with a bases-loaded walk to Sasha King, followed by RBI singles by Issie Coker and Sharp increasing the Parklane lead to 7-0.
Sharp — who got the start on the mound for Parklane —continued to dominate, preventing the Patriots from finding their footing on offense.
In the third inning, the Pioneers began to run away with the game. RBI singles by Macie Simmons and King got things going for Parklane. Sharp then followed with an RBI triple to center and scored on the throw making it a 13-0 game.
Later in the inning, RBI hits from Meg Gatlin, Gillihan and Gigi Lindsey plated more runs and when the dust settled, it was a 16-0 lead for the Pioneers.
Prep narrowed the lead to 13, scoring one run in the fourth and two in the fifth before Sharp recorded a strikeout during the final at bat sealing the win and the championship for Parklane.
Sharp led the Pioneers with two hits and four RBI. On the mound, she struck out seven while only giving up two hits.
After the game, she said that this state championship is very special to her.
“This is something I’ve been working for ever since I’ve been on the team,” Sharp said. “Finally getting that third shot to do it, I mean I was out last year and I didn’t get to do it and the season before, they kind of had my number in the state championship game. So this was the season that I wanted to have my state championship.”
Also having a very productive day at the plate was Lindsey who had three hits and three RBI. Simmons recorded two hits, two RBI and three runs scored.
For her, she was extremely proud of the team for getting another state title.
“I’m feeling great, the team worked really hard this year and I’m feeling like it really paid off,” said the 7th grader who started at third base this year. “I felt like (starting) was a big responsibility, but I trusted that Coach Greg (Gatlin) would tell me everything that I needed to know and would help me through the process.”
While the evening was special for each of the Pioneers and their supporters, it was bittersweet for senior Emme Wallace as it marked her final game as a member of the team. She said that she was extremely grateful for not only all that she learned on the field but also off of the field, as well.
“I just couldn’t be more thankful for the life lessons that I learned through my time here,” she said. “Aside from the wins which is sweet, just the lessons that I can take with this is bigger than softball and it is what really means the most to me.”