By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
FULTON – When rivals Northeast and Itawamba meet on the softball diamond this afternoon, more than just bragging rights will be on the line.
The Indians and Tigers are tied atop the MACJC North Division standings at 6-0, making today’s 3 p.m. doubleheader even more important as the midpoint of division play nears.
“Since we’re both at the top of the division, it’ll really give an advantage if either team can sweep,” ICC coach Andy Kirk said. “You want to sweep at home and try and split on the road and just try to get that No. 1 seed.”
The winner of the North Division will host this year’s State Tournament the last weekend of April.
Northeast coach Jody Long compared what he sees happening today to the Indians’ last two division games, when ICC swept Northwest by a combined three runs.
“I think both teams are pretty equal,” said Long. “Both teams have pitchers that are going to throw strikes and dictate what the other teams do.
“It’ll come down to the pitcher that makes the fewest mistakes.”
Long will turn to two out-of-state products in the circle. Jaisa Fox and Erin Dixson, both freshmen, have logged 43 innings apiece to lead the Northeast staff.
ICC will counter with two freshmen of their own, Meg Whitten and Rebecca Sloan, both of whom Kirk says have “grown up really quick.”
Kirk has been impressed with the hitting of area standouts Jessi Patterson of Nettleton and Kami Roberts of Smithville. Patterson leads the Indians with six home runs.
The Tigers return a consistent lineup that features 12 returning sophomores. Though no Northeast player has more than three homers, their entire lineup is a threat to hit the long ball.
“We’ve got the potential from top to bottom to hit the ball out of the park,” Long said. “But our concentration is just to put the pressure on the other team.”
Northeast had a 12-game winning streak snapped over spring break and stands at 15-7, while ICC lost both their games over the break to bring their record to 11-8.