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By DANNY P. SMITH
Softball in August is good for April.
After missing last season due to a knee injury, April Burney is making the most of her opportunity early as a senior for the Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers.
Burney had three hits on offense and turned in a pair of defensive gems at second base in the sixth inning to help the Lady Vols defeat the Pillow Academy Lady Mustangs 10-6 in their home opener on Thursday.
Starkville Academy held Pillow Academy scoreless in the top of the sixth inning behind the pitching of Julianne Jackson and the defense of Burney.
Burney was able to track down a ground ball and make a tough toss to Lauren Ware at first base, then she was on the receiving end of an assist from shortstop Mary Austin Barber to record an out at second base.
"In practice, we work on these plays every day so when the game comes, we know where to go," Burney said. "Julianne puts her faith in us when she pitches and puts it right down the middle of the plate to get the out."
The Lady Vols watched the Lady Mustangs score a run in the first inning to take the lead, but they answered with three runs in the frame.
Pillow Academy tied the game with two runs and took a 4-3 advantage with one run in the third.
Starkville Academy regained the lead in the third on RBI singles by Emily Gregory and Barber, then added two more runs in the fourth. Ware and Jackson had singles to start the frame and were driven home by Nikki Ford and Megan Picard.
After the Lady Mustangs cut the margin to 7-4 in the fifth, the Lady Vols added some cushion to their lead with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth.
Starkville Academy coach Kayla Mosley said defensive mistakes allowed Pillow to stay in the game early, but was glad the offense responded with a 11-hit effort to get the victory and even its record at 3-3.
"We need to clean up the defensive side of it for sure," Mosley said. "(Pillow) was a good team and this was a good win to gain confidence. We've just got to keep working."
Along with Burney's performance at the plate for the Lady Vols, Barber and Ware had two singles each, while Jackson, Picard, Aucoin and Gregory had one single each.
Jackson was the winning pitcher and Mosley continues to be proud that she's on SA's side.
"In the (Bayou) tournament, she got stronger as the day went on," Mosley said. "That's just the kind of pitcher she is. The more she throws, the stronger she's going to get. We're glad she's like that. She normally starts pretty strong, but we know she's going to end even stronger."
Jackson and the Lady Vols have the opportunity to get several more games under their belt Saturday with the action at the Starkville Academy Tournament.
The event, being held at the Mississippi State Intramural Softball Complex, gives players like Burney the experience necessary to get back into the swing of the sport.
"It's going to help me get used to playing softball again," Burney said.