BY BRANDON SPECK
RIDGELAND – Nettleton coach Chris Kidd had been telling his Lady Tigers all season long that reaching last May’s state fastpitch finals guaranteed nothing this season.
He can use the same motivation next season, this time using ‘winning,’ instead of ‘reaching.’
Nettleton shut down North Pike on Saturday 7-0 to capture the MHSAA Class 3A state championship, a win that tasted even sweeter after losing to Newton County last season.
The Lady Tigers won 4-3 behind Michele Hester in eight innings on Friday.
It was a birthday gift for Kidd, whose birthday was Friday, and even after Friday’s win put his team at a little bit of ease, Kidd still reminded them of the goal.
“It was a very relaxed atmosphere, but I told them we had not won anything yet,” Kidd said. “They came in with a focused attitude today. You have to give them credit for that.”
It was the first fastpitch title for Nettleton. It’s Kidd’s fourth overall. He has three slowpitch title with Ingomar.
Nettleton (24-1), whose only loss came against Class 4A New Hope, took an early 2-0 lead in the second inning. Sydney Clayton’s sacrifice fly put the Lady Tigers on the board first.
In the fifth, Katie Leach’s RBI single scored Korie Beth Leach for a 5-0 lead. North Pike pitcher Brianna Brister escaped any more damage. Jessica Patterson reached on a bunt single and Mackenzie Hawkins advanced the runners to second and third. Brister got a strikeout and a flyout to escape though.
Harmony Hood went the distance, hurling a shutout to close the season for a team losing one senior, right fielder Kimmy Nicholson.
“It just means the world to me,” Nicholson said. “I’m kind of speechless right now. It’s just the best feeling in the world. Having to leave is the worst feeling, but winning the state championship just makes it a lot better.”
Kidd said he saw something special when he first saw this team upon his arrival in Nettleton three years ago.
“You could see something about this group that they had what it takes to be a great team,” he said. “They’re goal from day one was to get back here to win a state championship.”
After watching her team lose on an error in the eighth inning Friday night, North Pike coach Sonya Wallace saw her Lady Jaguars (24-9) go scoreless. They field only one senior and one junior.
“We played a little scared I think,” Wallace said. “We knew coming in we had to put the ball in play. Even though we end up with the loss, I’m still proud of the girls.”
North Pike (24-9) threatened in the second. Hali Sasser singled with two outs and stole second base. Hood, though, struck Kelsey Lord out to end the inning.
“Last night, both teams didn’t do a very good job of some defensive plays,” Kidd said. “Today, we played excellent defense. Harmony did a great job throwing strikes and making them put the ball in play. We made all the plays today. We probably played the best defensive game of the year today.”