Mid-South softball team mourns loss of coach

(Photo Source: Kellie Mitchell)
(Photo Source: Kellie Mitchell)

HICKORY FLAT, MS (WMC) - A high school softball team is mourning the loss of its coach after a tragic car crash Thursday afternoon.

Mississippi Highway Patrol says Cyndal Cleveland died after the driver of another car fell asleep at the wheel and veered into Cleveland's lane.

Cleveland was in her second year coaching for Hickory Flat Attendance Center's Rebels.

In a room full of teary eyes and disbelief, the team of young girls wrote their final thoughts for Coach Cyndal Cleveland. I love you's and hearts covered the ball.

“She was more than just my coach,” said Mallory Moore, who plays second base on the team at Hickory Flat Attendance Center.

The ball wasn't big enough to hold all the emotions these players are feeling in the small town.

“Signing it really made me realize that she was gone,” said Ashton Morphis.

Players told me Cleveland was more than just a coach.

“She helped us through everything and so just if I could say anything to her, I would tell her thank you,” Moore said.

Bows and ribbons were placed around the school in Cleveland's memory. The flag was also lowered to half-staff.

Over at the softball fields, the lights were turned on, and they'll stay that way until after Cleveland's funeral Sunday.

It's among several ways teammates plan to remember her.

“Since she was a catcher, like me, we're getting her a wreath made to put behind home plate,” said Maddie Pipkin.

The young coach was just 24-years-old. Teammates say it's sad her life was cut so short before she was able to have a family of her own.

Cleveland came to the school after being a standout catcher at nearby Itawamba Community College in Fulton.

“Before the games, she would always be like, just remember give everything you have, give it all you've got. You never know if this is going to be your last game,” said Anna Yates.

It turns out, the team's final fall game a few weeks ago would be Cleveland's last.

The girls will play next season in memory of their coach, their mentor, and their friend.

“We know that she'll always be here with us in our hearts,” Moore said.

Cleveland's funeral will be Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Mantachie High School gymnasium.

It's unclear if the driver of the car who hit Cleveland and another car will face charges in the wreck.

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