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Lafayette softball drawing on extra source of motivation approaching 5A semifinals

The Lady Commodore softball team won their division. They’ve now won consecutive playoff series in relatively dominant fashion to move into the 5A state semifinals. However, they’re not pulling entirely from energy of their own. They have a little something more they’re playing for.

Back on March 26, the Lafayette-Oxford crosstown rivalry held some extra weight, but not from a state standings sense. It was ‘Strike out for the Cure’ night, an evening of softball in support of Lily Baker, a young girl who’s been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“By mid-season, we had the pink-out game against Oxford. The girl that came out here, Lily, our girls got really attached to her and that story behind her,” said head coach Katie Jenkins. “It’s really not that we play for her. But we have the ability to play. So we’re going and playing with our God-given ability to play when there’s children and kids that can’t.”

Jenkins has a five-by-seven framed picture of the Baker on her desk. A schedule board in the girls’ locker room is scattered with pictures and cards sent from Baker. They may not be playing for Lily Baker, but she’s certainly in their minds.

“She’s made a strong impact on a lot of us,” said senior Chloe Russell. “We pray about her every day because we want her family and everyone to get through it, obviously. But it makes the games a little more important to us.”

From a softball sense, the Lady Commodores are now facing their toughest match to date. Only four teams remain in the state playoffs, and Lafayette is one.

A year after being bounced by Germantown in the second round of the playoffs, the Commodores won their division in 2019 to earn a bye. They’ve since beaten Lake Cormorant in a sweep and won the rematch against Germantown in three games. Now, they get Neshoba Central in the final four.

Jenkins says the group has really come together late, finding a way to peak at the end of the year. Since losing back-to-back games earlier in the month, they’ve now won four of five and are riding high into the semis.

At 29-2, Neshoba Central is the top-ranked team in the state and the No. 19 team in the nation according to the MaxPreps Xcellent 25. They’re number-one pitcher, senior Aspen Wesley, is committed to play her college ball at Mississippi State. However, Lafayette has their own weapon on the mound.

Only a sophomore, Madisyn Cobbs is the Lady Commodore ace on the bump. Making 22 appearances at pitcher this season, Cobbs rolls into the semis posting an ERA of just 2.30. And she’s not a one-trick-pony – Cobbs is also hitting .369 with 24 RBIs on the season.

“This year I’ve had to step up and be more of a leader,” Cobbs said, talking about her increased role going into her sophomore season. “I’ve had to overcome some things, but it’s really about getting better and helping the younger girls and new starters grow. Really, it’s keeping everyone’s head up.”

Strategically, it will be interesting to see how Neshoba Central decides to pitch to Lafayette’s Mariah Holland. In Lafayette’s first game with Germantown, Holland went 4 for 4, driving in four runs. In the closeout Germantown game, she hit a three-run homer her first at-bat, before getting intentionally walked the rest of the game.

Game one with Neshoba Central will be Thursday night on the road. Games two and three (if needed), are scheduled as a doubleheader at Lafayette starting Saturday at 1 p.m. Games may be moved depending on weather.