SOFTBALL: Reigning champs back to 3A finals as Nettleton sweeps South Pontotoc

By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal

SPRINGVILLE – Nettleton hit the first two pitches on Wednesday well over the 230-foot fences at South Pontotoc.
It was more of the same story the rest of the way.
In the two-game sweep of South Pontotoc, Nettleton (25-5) cranked out eight home runs in a 10-3 Game 1 win, and a 15-5 Game 2 win to claim another Class 3A north title.
The reigning state champions will be back in Jackson on Saturday to face Clarkdale in the 2010 MHSAA state championship series.
“We came here tonight and hit the ball,” Nettleton coach Dana Rhea said. “And that’s the bottom line.
“This bunch wanted to win. Folks have been doubting them all year long. The first two pitches of the game, you hit two bombs, that’s a great way to start.”
The doubt came after the Lady Tigers won three rings – two in fast pitch – but lost six starters off those teams. They did not lose Makenzie Hawkins or Haley Parker, however, and the junior and senior set the tone when they sent Jenny Hinton’s first two pitches sailing over the fence.
Hawkins added another in the fifth of Game 1, a two-run shot, followed by two-run blasts from senior Jessica Patterson and freshman pitcher Anna Kent, the first of her career.
South Pontotoc (22-13) beat Nettleton twice during the regular season to win Division 2-3A, winning at Nettleton 7-5, and at home 7-6 on Jala Parker’s walk-off home run.
“We didn’t hit at all,” Patterson said of the two regular-season losses. “That just made us want to win more to show us that we can beat them twice too.”
In Game 2 today, senior Michele Hester made up for an 0-for-4 Game 1 with two home runs of her own, one right after Patterson’s second, to put Nettleton ahead 10-0.
The Lady Tigers took an 8-0 first-inning lead on Patterson’s RBI double, singles from Korie Beth Leach, Kaliegh Tackett, Lauren Baldwyn, and Hawkins, as well as a two-run double from Molly Bramlett, and an RBI ground-out from Chelesa Tucker. A total of 12 batters went to the plate in that inning.
“Hitting’s contagious,” Rhea said. “They strung together a bunch of hits. … When that thing gets going, hitting’s contagious.”
Nettleton ended Game 2 in the fifth inning after Hester’s second bomb, a two-run job for a 13-5 lead, and Tackett’s two-run, walk-off single.
“They’re a loaded gun” South Pontotoc coach Adam Patterson said. “They just absolutely hit the ball, all the credit goes to their team.
“They just didn’t hit it, they hit it out. That was the whole difference in the game. I was extremely proud of our team, we could have laid down and quite in the second game, but keep battling, battling, and battling.”
A foul ball Patterson hit to left fell some 30 feet past the fence in Game 2. South Pontotoc made it briefly interesting in the fifth, cutting the lead to 11-5 on Anna Beth Roberts RBI single, and Breanna Kitchen’s sacrifice and error. Nettlleton turned three double plays to end threats, one with the bases loaded in the fourth inning of Game 2 after Hinton’s RBI single made it 11-3.