By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Hatley is eager to get there for the second time and Baldwyn is itching to get there for the first time.
The two meet tonight in Hatley for Game 1 of their MHSAA Class 2A North State best-of-three softball series with a state championship series on the line.
“I expect it to be tough from the first out to the last,” Hatley coach Chris George said. “They’re scrappy and don’t give up.”
George and Baldwyn coach Jessica Taylor should know what to expect. The two are division foes and the Lady Tigers swept the season series, 6-5 in eight innings at Hatley and 11-0 in five innings at Baldwyn.
In Hatley’s one-run win, senior Lesley Hudson struck out eight and Baldwyn left 12 on base.
“We just hit the ball hard one through nine and Hudson shut them down and threw a lot of strikes,” George said.
Hatley (25-5) swept Baldwyn out of the playoffs the last two seasons. The Lady Tigers are led by Hudson’s 21-2 record. Leadoff hitter Courtney Roberts, a sophomore outfielder, is hitting .420.
“We’re very familiar with them. We know we have to hit Hudson to win and I think we can,” Taylor said.
Tonight’s game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. first-pitch. Game 2, and 3 if necessary, is set for Saturday at Baldwyn.
Baldwyn (20-12) is in its first North finals series. Two seasons ago, Hatley was swept by Enterprise in its first state championship series appearance.
“It feels different this time,” George said of the recent playoff run. “If we can get there, they won’t be happy just to get there. They want to win it.”
Baldwyn got over one of its postseason hurdles by beating Hamilton in two games last week. Paige Woods’ RBI was the difference in a 2-1 road win Saturday as Jorda Waters held Hamilton to one hit.
“I definitely feel good about it if we play like we’ve been playing.,” Taylor said.
Seven more NeMiss teams are still in the title hunt. In Class 4A, Pontotoc opens its series at Houston tonight and three-time Class 3A champ Nettleton is at Booneville.
In Class 1A, Smithville hosts Pine Grove in Game 2 of a weather-delayed quarterfinals series. That series winner will face Vardaman in the North finals.