When the fourth inning began in Starkville High's game against Meridian Tuesday, the Lady Yellowjackets were hanging tough.
Trailing 3-0, SHS head coach Lisa Spencer knew that in a traditionally offensive game like slow pitch softball, the Lady Jackets were still very much alive.
Then the bottom fell out.
The Lady Wildcats sent eight batters to the plate and scored five times in the frame to put Starkville in an 8-0 hole as Meridian cruised to an 11-1 win.
"It was like the air was let out of our team," said Spencer of the critical fourth inning. "Normally, it's usually the opposite of what we did. They normally don't roll over. But we just kind of rolled over and played dead today and that's not a good thing with district play coming up."
Meridian (4-1) needed just three hits to spark the five-run rally in the fourth.
A one-out walk and a Starkville error put two Lady Wildcats on before a run-scoring double, a two-run single, an RBI triple, and a run-producing ground out accounted for the damage.
"We connected for some hits in that inning," said Meridian head coach Susan Frazier. "Usually, we've got a young group of girls and they're just inconsistent. Most of the game we were overly aggressive at the plate, but that inning was good for us."
Starkville (2-3) had a chance for a big inning of its own in the bottom of the fourth, but came up with just a lone run.
With one out, Verlyncia Leonard walked and Tiyuanna Ringo singled to left. Ringo was thrown out at second trying to stretch her hit into a double, but Leonard advanced to third. After Nicole Hackett walked to put runners on the corners, Shareda Brown drove in Leonard with a single.
Ty'Keyia Davis struck out to end the frame leaving two Lady Jackets aboard.
Spencer said her team has got to start driving the ball with some consistency to take advantage of potential big innings.
"Slow pitch is a hitter's game," said Spencer. "We've got to have hot bats. We've got to get the ball out of the infield more."
It didn't help that Meridian's glove work was more than solid, halting Starkville rallies before they could even get started.
"Our hitting may hasn't been consistent, but we've been playing pretty well defensively all year," said Frazier.
Despite Meridian's solid game, Spencer couldn't get over the Lady Jackets play on Tuesday.
"We made (Meridian) look better than what they are," said Spencer. "That's not to take anything at all away from them, because they earned the win. We just didn't come mentally ready to play ball."
Spencer hopes the Lady Jackets won't have that problem on Thursday when Starkville opens up district play in a 5 p.m. game at Columbus.
"We're gonna come back," said Spencer. "It's in them. From the first pitch of the game to the last out, we've got to come out swinging bats, swinging hard, running hard, and playing a total game."