By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Nettleton isn’t the place to play or coach if you don’t want pressure.
The Lady Tigers are going for their fourth straight MHSAA Class 3A fastpitch title this weekend at Ridgeland’s Freedom Park.
Game 1 of the best-of-three series against St. Patrick is this morning. It’s a rematch of a Nettleton sweep a year ago.
It’s Nettleton’s fifth straight appearance in the championship series. So after Nettleton (24-4) won the North championship against Booneville on Saturday, there wasn’t a lot of celebration.
“It’s not a big deal to them yet, until you get down there and have a chance to win it,” coach Dana Rhea said after Saturday’s win. “I want them hooping and hollering right now. It’s hard coaching at Nettleton, I tell you. It’s not successful unless you get down there.”
Rhea took over the fastpitch team following the departure of Chris Kidd last season. Rhea was Kidd’s assistant for all three titles and head coach for two slowpitch championships. In October, his slowpitch team went 28-0 to win the title.
Three big contributors graduated after last season, pitcher Michele Hester and Hayley Parker both putting up big numbers for top junior college Chipola, Fla., and Jessi Patterson, who earned all-state and all-region honors at Itawamba CC.
There are only two seniors this season, Makenzie Hawkins and Korie Beth Leach.
“I don’t think they think we can make it every year,” Hawkins said. “We keep losing people and people keep stepping up keeping the tradition.”
Nettleton is led by Hawkins, hitting .535 with five home (third in the state) runs and a state-leading 51 RBI. Speedy leadoff hitter Molly Bramlett is hitting .467. Leach is tied for a team-third 21 RBI.
Sophomore MariAnna young stepped into her first starting pitching role and has gone 23-4 with a 1.79 ERA.
Rhea may want to see more emotion out of them but with the wins piling up, he really doesn’t mind.
“There’s only one team left in 3A North and it’s us,” Rhea said. “That’s something to be proud of. They just play the game, no nerves. They were more worried about where they’re going to go eat. They don’t panic.”