After losing six players who all are playing college fast-pitch softball over the past two seasons and getting off to a slow start this season, Clinton Christian Academy coach Josh Zeitz and his players weren’t so confident they would win a third consecutive MAIS Class 3A state championship.
“We were 3-2 and you would have thought the sky was falling,” Zeitz said.
“After our first practice, I said there is no way we are going to the playoffs,” Clinton Christian shortstop MaddieWeeks, one of three seniors on this year’s team. “The girls weren’t being serious. And I wasn’t used to being one of the main leaders. It was new for me.”
A very difficult practice after the second loss caught the girls attention and they went on a 10-game winning streak. They continued to get better and achieved their goal, another state championship.
CCA finished 25-5-2, with only one loss to a Class 3A team, and swept Marshall in two games for its third straight state title.
“Our seniors and our young kids stepped it up,” said Zeitz, who is also CCA’s athletic director. “This senior class won 89 games over the last three seasons. They have helped build a winning program. I’m most proud of this state championship because it took a lot of work to get there. They improved tremendously as the year went along. We showed a lot of character all year, especially in the championship series. In the first game, Marshall came back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game and had the winning run at third with one out in the seventh and we got two outs and then they had the tying run on third with one in the eighth inning and we got back to back strikeouts. We won 5-4 in eight innings and won the second game 8-1.”
Strikeouts was commonplace for CCA’s pitcher, senior right-hander Hanna Zeitz, Josh’s daughter. Hanna had a 23-4 record with 279 strikeouts and only 49 walks with a 1.00 earned run average in 166 innings, 1.6 strikeouts per inning. Hanna, who is going to play for 2018 national champion Jones County Junior College, pitched a perfect game and three no-hitters this season. She has thrown five perfect games and 10 no-hitters since she started pitching as a seventh-grader. Hanna was named the MAIS Class 3A Softball Player of the Year for the past two seasons and is the favorite to win it again this season. She was the MVP in the MAIS Class 3A-5A All-Star Game last week.
Weeks, who is going to play at Copiah-Lincoln CC, had a .456 batting average with 14 doubles, two triples, three home runs and a team-high 45 runs scored. She made only three errors all season. The only other senior was first baseman Iris Farve, who is joining Hanna at JCJC. She hit .484 with 11 home runs, 41 runs batted in and scored 38 runs.
Other top players from CCA include sophomore MaddieBruner (.340, 5 HRs, 41 RBIs, only 2 errors), sophomore center fielder Rilee Evans (.350), right fielder Meghan Bruner (no errors and only one strikeout in 32 games), junior third baseman Nat Toups (made some clutch hits in the playoffs), junior second baseman Neblett (a team-high 18 stolen bases) and junior left fielder Aubrey Bryson (most improved fielder).
CCA’s only losses were to Class 5A state champion Parklane, 4A state runner-up Leake (twice), 4A state semifinalist Silliman (La.) and 3A Bowling Green. CCA beat 4A state champion Hillcrest and also tied Parklane.
CCA has an 89-15 record, an 81.7 winning percentage,over the past three seasons, including a 22-0 Class 3A, District 3 record and a 30-4 record in the playoffs.